LA County DA George Gascon continues to anger the families of crime victims and his own deputy DA’s with his insistence on dropping all sentencing enhancements against violent criminals. Now one such case is turning into a fight between LA County and neighboring Orange County.
The case involves a convicted sex offender named Kenneth Rasmuson (pictured above) who has previously served time for two sex crimes involving children. In 2015, DNA tied him to the kidnapping and murder of two 6-year-old boys in California in the early 1980s. Those crimes were set to be tried in LA County but newly-elected DA Gascon is seeking to drop all the enhancements in the case which would result in a lighter sentence for Rasmuson if he’s convicted. So this week Orange County DA Todd Spitzer filed charges in the case, hoping to take it back from LA County:
In a statement, Spitzer called the allegations against Rasmuson “the stuff of parents’ nightmares” and vowed to do everything in his power to stop Rasmuson from ever coming in contact with another child.
“Jeffrey’s family will have justice,” Spitzer wrote. “I refuse to allow the LADA’s ‘one-size fits all approach’ to prevent the family of a 6-year-old murdered child from achieving the justice that they deserve.”
Spitzer is referring to 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo who was abducted near his home in Orange County in 1981. Here’s a photo of Jeffrey being held up by his mom and dad.
'I would be happy if he went to prison for the rest of his miserable life and rotted there,' says the mother of Jeffrey Vargo, a 6-year-old killed in 1981 https://t.co/vTuawdaK5F #deathpenalty #justice #LADA #SoCal
— Scott Schwebke (@TheChalkOutline) January 30, 2021
Another photo of Jeffrey:
1981 6-year old Jeffrey Vargo last seen alive bicycling to #fireworks stand in #Pomona #California @MissinginCalif @FBISacramento @camissingreport @SFGate @sfchronicle @sfexaminer @SFWeekly @mercnews @nbcbayarea @missingKids pic.twitter.com/JUWkPTqqOg
— Iain McDougall (@VanishedPlanet) July 2, 2019
Under DA Gascon’s new rules, Rasmuson, who has been jailed since 2015 awaiting trial, could potentially be out in as little as 15 years. By contrast with various enhancements, Rasmuson would face the death penalty if convicted in Orange County. That’s why Vargo’s parents support DA Spitzer’s efforts to take the case out of DA Gascon’s hands:
On July 2, 1981, Jeffrey was riding his bike near his Anaheim Hills home when Rasmuson allegedly abducted him. The boy’s body was found the next day about 25 miles away at a construction site in Pomona’s Phillips Ranch neighborhood, but it wasn’t until 2015 that DNA would lead to Rasmuson’s arrest.
Jeffrey’s parents, Bob and Connie Vargo, said in a statement they are pleased Spitzer is interested in taking the case over. “We agreed moving to Orange County would speed up the process, and Rasmuson would receive the punishment he deserves,” they said. “Life without parole or death.”
An unnamed LA County Deputy DA criticized Gascon’s approach to the child murder case, calling it “embarrassing.”
A senior Los Angeles County prosecutor, who asked not to be identified, said special circumstance murder enhancements should be reserved for the cruelest offenders.
“It ensures that a particular class of murderer will never see the outside of a prison,” the prosecutor said. “Mr. Gascon’s failure to recognize this distinction in sentencing law is embarrassing and disheartening. His statement that defendants who are sentenced under traditional first-degree murder law will spend the rest of their lives in prison is clever, but it is false and misleading. The only way to ensure certain brutal killers spend the rest of their lives in prison is to charge them, when appropriate, with special circumstance murder.”
Gascon is an embarrassment to LA County. Even the violent criminals he is supposed to be prosecuting have figured that out. Last week one inmate called the DA’s office to say he wanted his case to be resentenced so his time remaining could drop from the current 140 years to 15 years. He said that if necessary he was prepared to beat up a police officer to get himself back into an LA County court system to force the issue.