Described as a "cold-blooded killer" by the judge in her case, convicted serial killer Susan Monica was sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison for murdering two men more than a year apart, dismembering them and feeding them to her pigs in separate acts at her Wimer farm.
The 66-year-old Monica sat quietly as jurors in the Jackson County courtroom reeled off unanimous verdicts on two counts each of murder and abuse of a corpse. She was charged in the shooting death and dismemberment of 59-year-old Stephen Delicino in the summer of 2012 and 56-year-old handyman Robert Haney in September 2013.
Both were fed to her pigs and what was left of their remains was discovered in January 2014 on the 20-acre farm off West Evans Creek Road. Monica never took responsibility for their deaths throughout 18 hours of videotaped interviews and her six-day jury trial, and told investigators she feared her pigs would be killed if she reported the deaths.
"You shot two people and fed them to your pigs," Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack told a quiet Monica, who was prone to outbursts during her trial. "I don't know how else I can put it. You valued pigs more than you value people.
"It may sound harsh, but you are a cold-blooded killer," Barnack said.
Barnack sentenced Monica to two consecutive life terms with mandatory 25-year minimums on the murder charges. She was given credit for time served in the Jackson County Jail on her remaining convictions.
The FBI's criteria for a serial killer is one who kills at least two people in separate acts that are not part of a running crime spree.
Monica could have awaited sentencing but ask for it to be imposed as soon as the jury was dismissed, saying "it doesn't seem to matter."
Monica also addressed Haney's family, sticking to her story that she had discovered a disemboweled Haney inexplicably in her pen being devoured by pigs and near death a month after he disappeared in the fall of 2013.
"I couldn't bring myself to call you simply to say, 'Hey, your father has finally showed up. Come get him out of my pig pen,'" Monica said while seated in court. "I couldn't do it."
The jury didn't buy Monica's claim that she shot Delicino five times in the head in self defense during a struggle in her barn or that she shot Haney to put him out of his misery. The so-called "mercy defense" is also not acknowledged under Oregon law.
It took the 10-man, two-woman jury barely an hour to elect a foreperson and reach its verdict.
"The jury held you accountable," Barnack said.
Much of the case against Monica swirled around her ever-changing stories to investigators on how the shootings occurred. Prosecutors chalked the changes up to her repeated attempts to re-align her story to meet what she thought detectives knew at the time or the forensic evidence they were about to find.
Defense attorney Christine Herbert acknowledged that Monica's defense was hampered by her own statements, which didn't stop after her arrest and included letters to the Mail Tribune and monitored telephone calls while inside the Jackson County Jail. On the eve of her trial, she even signed a fellow jail inmate's birthday card "from Jackson County's sweetest murderer, Susan Monica."
"She just doesn't have a good filter," Herbert said outside of court.
The case will be appealed while she remains incarcerated.
"She took it well," Herbert said. "I think she may be looking forward to moving on with her life."
In closing arguments today, Senior Deputy District Attorney Allan Smith argued that Monica's rapidly changing stories on both men's killings never stacked up against forensic evidence.
Herbert countered by arguing the burden to prove or disprove Monica's statements to police and the jury fell on the prosecutors.
"You need to demand the state show how they can overcome her story," Herbert told the jury.
Smith also reminded the jurors of Monica's ever-changing story about the death of Delicino, ranging from five self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head in a suicide to, eventually, claims the shooting was in self-defense.
During closing argument, Smith dramatically brought out a dummy head, took Monica's rifle and showed the only way she could have fired the final two rounds into the back of Delicino's head was if he were lying face-down at her feet.
"That confrontation isn't self-defense in anybody's world, except maybe the defendant's," Smith said.
Heckert countered in her defense argument that the state never proved Monica's version of self-defense was not true and never proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that Haney definitely was alive when the shots were fired.
"Conflicting statements alone don't constitute beyond a reasonable doubt," Herbert said.
From opening statements to close, defense attorneys kept reminding jurors of Monica's strange mannerisms — she regularly threatened to kill people and feed them to her pigs — and gruesome pig images were "distractions" from focus on the state's legal burden.
"Just because Susan Monica is different and strange and weird doesn't make her a murderer," Herbert told the jury. But the jurors disagreed.
The six-day trial was one of strange courtroom theater, with one more scene just before the jury was sent to deliberate.
As Barnack addressed the jury, Monica stood up, raised her hand and began asking for the chance to give jurors one more demonstration on how she claimed she shot Delicino with the gun held perpendicular to the ground and in the air — the only way her story could match forensic evidence.
"I'd like to demonstrate how I shot him for 10 seconds," Monica blurted.
Barnack at first ignored her. Then Monica put her hands in the air, as she did in her earlier testimony from the stand, and said, "I held the gun like this."
Barnack ordered her back to the Jackson County Jail, and sheriff's deputies took her away. She returned less than two hours later for the verdict.