Son Kills And Burns Mother, Dad, In 'Grisly' Triple Homicide
Edward Charles was his parents' disappointment and his younger brother frequently outshone. He stole the spotlight by killing all three.
The Charles family—the couple Edward and Dolores and sons Edward (Eddie), 22, and Daniel (Danny), 19—was a picture of a wealthy, charmed life to casual observers as well as friends and neighbors sharing their Orange County orbit.
On November 6, 1994, Edward, 55, an electrical engineer at Hughes Aircraft, Dolores, 47, a self-employed typist, and Danny, a USC voice student and opera singer, were all found dead in Danny's burning car in a high school parking lot near the Charles home.
Sgt. Curtis Royer, former lead investigator for LA County Sheriff's Dept, told "The Real Murders of Orange County," airing on Oxygen on Sundays at 8/7c.
Within the vehicle, engulfed in flames when the authorities arrived, Edward and Dolores' badly burned, naked bodies were piled in the back seat of the car. Danny's body, wrapped in a fetal position in the trunk, was virtually unaffected by fire. Besides being battered, he'd been stabbed.
The triple homicide was "grisly sight," Geoff Boucher, former Los Angeles Times reporter, told producers. "It's not a community you're expecting to read such headlines."
Together, detectives discovered that the family had dinner together at the Charles residence in Fullerton, California, on Terraza Plaza. Investigators investigated slaying motives. Do you carjacking? Abduction? Random heinous violence?
As they considered every possible angle, autopsy reports gave officials a better image of all three victims as they took their last breaths.
"You can still tell a lot from a burned body," Lisa Scheinin, former Los Angeles County medical examiner, told producers.
Reports revealed the Charleses were all killed before torching the car. No signs of smoke inhalation, Scheinin explained. A hammer or similar weapon used to bludgeon victims.
Investigators concentrated on collecting more information from the victim's home and remaining family members, Danny, and his grandfather, Bernard Severino, 73.
As authorities put together the case, they heard that a 911 call was made by a Charles neighbor in Fullerton on November 6 night. The discovery indicated something may have happened near home. The 911 caller reported hearing a voice from a house parked across the street. The car was gone when police arrived.
Severino, Dolores' father, was briefly cleared of suspicion. He also gave officials permission to search Charles' home. Crime scene technicians found trace blood traces in different locations.
Detectives turned their attention to Eddie, whose somewhat disinterested reaction to his mother, father, and brother's death news nagged at them. He never asked specifics.
Eddie stayed at his girlfriend's house, Tiffany Bowen, a college student who appeared on the "Baywatch" TV series. Her mother, Jeane Bowen, provided Eddie with an alibi for the murder night. Detectives were suspect.
As the investigation centered on Eddie, a profile materialized that threatened the Charleses' idyllic picture of the outside world. Eddie, it turned out was tied to multiple criminal cases including arson, theft, bad checks, and vandalism.
"He's never been arrested but a suspect," Royer told producers.
Suspicions deepened after neighboring Charlses told authorities that he saw Eddie washing something off the driveway around the time of the murders.
The neighbor, Jerry R. Kuhn, Ph.D., told producers that Eddie's impression was that he had a "troublesome nature." Eddie appeared "to some extent separated from the family," he added.
Investigators discovered that the Charleses were upset that Eddie quit school and worked as a mechanic gas station. The spotlight never wavered from Eddie's younger brother, a college student, and a talented singer.
A case break occurred on November 9. Eddie confessed to his karate instructor, who told the Fullerton Police Department of the discovery.
Confronted by police, Eddie denied guilt and sought to blame his grandparents. But as he struggled to preserve his innocence, police gathered information that linked Eddie more securely to murders.
A homeless woman found a 16-inch crescent wrench while swimming. Besides hair and blood, the tool had a yin/yang symbol that was the same as engravings on other tools in Eddie's tool kit.
Throughout the news in Orange County, mindful of the high-profile incident, she handed the wrench over to investigators who checked it against the victims' DNA. It's been a match.
Investigators said Eddie's desire for money to satisfy his girlfriend may have been a potential motive.
The Los Angeles Times reported being arrested on November 10, 1994 on suspicion of murdering his parents and younger brother.
Prosecutors charged him with triple counts of murder, including a special circumstance that could mean a death sentence, reported the Los Angeles Times on November 15, 1994.
Eddie's attempt to elude authorities while in lockup, but the scheme failed. Instead, he ended up in a sting operation attempting to plan his grandfather's death from his prison cell. The contract killer he worked with was an undercover investigator.
The undercover investigator told Eddie to pay the hit man's family. In exchange for $150,000 and three horses, the murderer will "bash the grandfather's skull with a baseball bat, then deliberately arrest and confess all four killings," reported the Associated Press in January 1995.
A letter Eddie wrote to another prisoner about the crimes added to the pile of evidence against him.
Eddie was sentenced in January 1996, but four juries had to determine his sentence. Severino, his grandfather he attempted to kill, testified on Eddie's behalf, pleading his grandson wouldn't get the death penalty, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1995.
Edward Charles III was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, with jurors still finding true allegations of multiple murders. In 1999, he was sentenced to death.
California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the 2015 death penalty. Under a California death penalty moratorium, he is now spending his days on death row.