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Fourth Jury Faces Choice: Life or Death for Guzek?


From the start, jurors were told to be ready. The next three weeks would be difficult, and dark.

And at the end, they’d have a tough choice: to either give convicted murderer Randy Lee Guzek a death sentence – his fourth – or life with the possibility of parole, but not for 60 years – of which he’s already served 22, which would mean the now 41-year-old would be at least 78 – that is, if parole ever were granted.

After years of legal battles and preparation, a jury was seated and heard opening arguments Thursday in the case of Guzek, convicted for his role in the brutal shooting and stabbing deaths of a Terrebonne couple, Rod and Lois Houser, way back in 1987. Each death sentence was overturned on what any but legal experts would call technicalities.

And again, prosecuting the case as he has all along, is Josh Marquis – now Clatsop County district attorney, then a Deschutes County deputy DA.

“Now we would not expect you to make that decision without hearing an awful lot of evidence,” Marquis told the jury before visiting Lane County Judge Jack Billings, called upon to hear the case in Bend.

“And as you might expect, the evidence coming from one side will probably be quite different from the other.”

Defense attorney Richard Wolf told the eight-woman, four-man jury Guzek was a victim himself, of an abusive father.

“Most people would describe him as never being sober,” said Wolf, one of Guzek’s three attorneys. “He was an absolute alcoholic – raging alcoholic. You’re also going to hear, that when Randy was about 6 months old, Joel Guzek, Randy’s father, took a 13-year-old girl into the home. And within a short period of time, began having sex with her.”

But the prosecutor argued if given the chance, Guzek would cause trouble again. Because as Marquis put it, when Randy got angry, Randy got even.

“Again, was this an isolated act, or was this part of something more?” Marquis asked, no doubt planning to provide an answer in coming days. “Was this essentially an isolated act of evil, by someone who otherwise would not have committed it? Or was it a cold, premeditated act with a person who’s likely to present a threat of violence in the future?”

But Wolf told jurors they couldn’t trust the state’s witnesses, including the two men sentenced to life for their role in the killngs, and who testified against Guzek before.

Guzek, Mark Wilson and Donald Ross Cathey went to the Housers’ home early on the morning of June 29, 1987 with plans to burglarize their house. Testimony at Guzek’s previous death penalty trial indicated they targeted the Houses because Guzek, then 18, had dated their niece until a bad breakup.

The Housers’ daughters discovered their parents’ bodies the next day. Rod Houser had been shot more than 20 times and his wife three times, execution-style, according to prosecutors. Their house had been ransacked and burglarized.

Wilson and Cathey pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and agreed to testify against Guzek

“But the testimony of people such as Mr. Wilson and Mr. Cathey is to be viewed with distrust,” Wolf said.

One powerful witness, yet to testify: the couple’s daughter, Susan Shirley. She discovered her parents’ bodies in their bedroom nearly 23 years ago.

Marquis told jurors her testimony should paint a clear picture of what happened – and what needs to happen to Guzek.

“And she will tell you that she found the bodies of her parents, who had been slaughtered, as it turns out, by Randy Guzek,” he said.

When the trial resumes Tuesday, the jurors will be taken on a bus to the home where the murder happened back in 1987.

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