Man who deliberately drove into preschool playground convicted of murder

SANTA ANA, Calif. - The man who deliberately drove into a Costa Mesa preschool playground, killing two children and injuring five, was convicted Thursday on murder and attempted murder counts.

Steven Allen Abrams, 40, told police he wanted to kill children.

''I was executing them ... as many as I could get. I was aiming for as many children as I could kill,'' he said in a taped confession played for jurors during trial.

The same 10-man, two-woman Superior Court jury will now be asked to determine if Abrams was sane when he drove the Cadillac into the Southcoast Early Childhood Learning Center on May 3, 1999.

An insanity decision could mean Abrams will spend the rest of his life in a state mental institution.

If the panel decides he was sane, jurors will then hear testimony in a penalty phase of trial and recommend the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole.

Jurors convicted Abrams on two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder for injuring children and a teacher's aide, and two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter involving a couple whose car he tried to ram prior to ramming the school yard.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Lloyd told jurors that Abrams was a cold-blooded killer who was delusional because of years of drug abuse. She said Abrams was seeking revenge for a 1994 conviction for stalking his girlfriend.

But Deputy Public Defender Leonard Gumlia said his client was a paranoid schizophrenic who was trying to stop ''brain wave makers'' from controlling his thoughts and behavior. The defense lawyer said Abrams was legally insane and began hearing voices shortly after his stalking conviction.

''To his growing horror, he came to know there was a conspiracy against him,'' Gumlia said. The conspiracy included the judge who gave Abrams a short jail sentence, he said.

One of the first witnesses in the day care trial described how her son died when a Cadillac crashed through a chain-link fence surrounding the center and struck him. Pamela Wiener said she was fetching her son Brandon's lunch box inside the preschool when she heard the crash.

''I started screaming for my son. I couldn't find him, and I was just looking everywhere and asking, 'Where is Brandon? Where is Brandon?''' Wiener said.

''I saw other children laying on the ground. And somebody said that there were children under the car. So I went around the car and saw my son underneath.''

Three-year-old Brandon Wiener and 4-year-old Sierra Soto were killed.


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