One of San Diego County’s most notorious crimes of the 20th century was the murder of three SDSU engineering professors ambushed in the classroom by a deranged student.
Dr. Chen Liang, 32, Dr. Preston Lowery III, 44, and Dr. Constantinos Lyrintzis, 36, were gunned down in 1996 by graduate student Frederick Martin Davidson, a 36-year-old on the verge of being awarded his Master’s degree. Lyrintzis was the husband of Southwestern College Professor of Spanish Deana Alonso- Lyrintzis and father of 14-month-old Sofia Lyrintzis.
Dr. Chen Liang, 32
Dr. Preston Lowery III, 44
Dr. Constantinos Lyrintzis, 36
Davidson was found guilty of murder with special circumstance and, according to prosecutor Paul Pfingst, “a slam dunk” to be executed. In an act of mercy that stunned the region, the widows of the slain professors approached Pfingst with an offer—they would not pursue the death penalty if Davidson would accept life in prison without parole or appeal. Davidson and his attorney accepted the deal, three consecutive life sentences without parole, one for each murdered professor.
Recently, to the horror of the widows, their family and friends, Davidson went back on his word and applied for executive clemency from California Gov. Jerry Brown. California law empowers the governor to grant clemency and free Davidson from prison, reduce his sentence or reject the application. Brown could not be reached for comment, but indications are he has not yet seen the application.
Deana Alonso was remarried in 2005 to SWC DSS specialist Frank Post.
Davidson received three consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole as his sentence.
Alonso-Post said she cannot express the horror she felt when she was told that Davidson had petitioned for clemency.
“It shreds my heart to pieces to even think that this man could walk freely in our community,” she said. “He left four children, now adults, without a father, three widows, several students in shock as they witnessed his premeditated crime and thousands in our San Diego community in pain.”
Alonso-Post said granting Davidson clemency would be devastating.
“I trust that Governor Jerry Brown will not give any clemency,” she said. “In this case, the killer already had clemency when we did not pursue the death penalty in exchange for three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.”
Alonso-Post said she refuses to allow the killer to hurt her family again.
“My daughter is now an adult and I hate that she has to deal with this,” she said. “The decision we took 21 years ago was based on the hope our children would never have to think about or worry about this.”
SWC Professor of Spanish Esther Alonso, Deana’s sister, created a petition on Change.org asking Brown to deny clemency to Davidson.
“That dreadful day is one nobody in my family or Costas’ family will ever forget,” she said.
Deana was speaking to the police about an incident at SDSU when Esther Alonso heard about the shooting. Esther rushed to her sister’s house, she said. Police had told Deana what had happened at SDSU and that her husband was dead before Esther arrived. Deana was in a state of shock, Esther said, and could not comprehend what washappening.
“I wish she had stayed in that state a little longer, because as soon as she absorbed the enormity of how their lives, their futures, their dreams, her heart, and both her and her daughter’s world had, in one second, disintegrated and had turned into years of unbearable sorrow,” she said. “Those first days were shrouded in a dark fog.”
Deana asked everyone not to cry in front of Sofia because she did not want her daughter to notice that something was wrong. Sofia was 14 months old at the time. She adored her doting and loving dad.
Esther Alonso said that if it not for Sofia she does not know how Deana would have survived.
“I believe that the strength and self-control required to put on hold her devastation toplay, feed, change and bathe her daughter saved her from total despair,” she said.
Deana was suffering terribly, but she made sure Sofia did not know. Esther Alonso said that when Sofia would go to sleep, Deana would lay in bed crying, holding a poster-sized framed picture of her dead husband. Esther said watching Deana hide her enormous pain from her daughter was the hardest part for her.
Esther was unable to console her sister, she said.
“How could I tell her that everything will be fine when she will never see her husband again?” and she said “The love of her life had been assassinated and the black hole this left in her heart would be there for a long time, if not forever.”
Deana did not have a chance to say goodbye.
The hardest thing for Alonso’s family was that Sofia would grow up without a father.
Every Father’s Day she will have a reminder of a horrible incident.
To sign the Change.org petition asking California Governor Jerry Brown to deny clemency to the killer of Dr. Constantinos Lyrintzis, Dr. Chen Liang and Dr. Preston Lowery III, go to https://www.change.org/p/jerry-brown-deny-clemency-to-the-killer-of-professor-constantinos-lyrintzis.
To send a personal message to Gov. Brown go to https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/. Letters to Gov. Brown may be sent to: Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814.
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