Viola Hagenkord was 79 and lived alone in her small Anaheim apartment. She was known to prop open her front door with a Campbell’s soup can in the evenings, a habit that made some neighbors worry for her. On Feb. 18, 1980, she was found slain in her bed, asphyxiated with a gag made from a torn pillowcase. She had been raped.
In one of Anaheim’s oldest cold-case murder prosecutions, an Orange County Superior Court jury on Tuesday convicted a former long-haul trucker, Andre Lepere, of her murder. Lepere, 64, had been living in retirement in Alamogordo, N.M., when he was arrested last year, linked to the crime by evolving DNA technology.
After a two-week trial, the jury began deliberations Friday and resumed Tuesday morning, announcing midmorning it had reached a verdict. Convicted of murder with the special circumstance of rape, Lepere faces an automatic life term when he is sentenced May 13 by Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett.
At the time of the attack, Lepere was 22, a heavy beer drinker who had lasted only a year in the Army before misbehavior — including an alcohol-related car crash — prompted his discharge. He was estranged from his first wife, who had once filed a restraining order against him.
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