Jury convicts Sonoma man of murder of his grandfather

As a court clerk read guilty verdicts on all counts against him late Friday afternoon, murder defendant Sean Mooney burst out sobbing and offered what could be construed as a confession to killing his elderly grandfather for financial gain: ?I needed a house, not money!?

The conviction of murder for financial gain will send the 21-year-old Mooney to prison for the rest of his life, with no chance for parole.

?I was with Brandy,? he sobbed, naming his ex-fianc?, looking incredulously at the seven-woman, five-man jury. He continued, apparently speaking of his mother: ?She wouldn?t give me anywhere to live. I needed a house, not money.?

Mooney?s comments, made as the first of three guilty verdicts were announced, confirmed for jurors they made the right decision, members of the panel said afterward.

Judge Ken Gnoss ordered Mooney to compose himself or he would remove him from the courtroom. For the remainder of the verdict announcements, Mooney sobbed more quietly, bowed forward with his head on top of his hands as a bailiff stood directly behind him.

Mooney will be formally sentenced next month. In the meantime, he remains in Sonoma County Jail without bail.

Prosecutor Traci Carrillo argued to jurors that Mooney killed his 77-year-old grandfather, Robert Deming of Sonoma, on May 20, 2008 because he was a financially desperate, unemployed man with a newly pregnant unemployed fianc?. He was going to lose his rent-free arrangement at his parents? Chico home and had his eye on a camper trailer on Deming?s Bonneau Road property, Carrillo said.

Deming was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun from pont-blank range, according to the testimony.

The legal term ?financial gain? doesn?t have to mean money, she told jurors, nor does it have to be a direct benefit. If his mother?s inheritance trickled down to more support for him, that counts, she said.

Mooney claimed he accidentally shot his grandfather, whom he called ?Bob,? when he tried to throw the loaded shotgun across the room at the elderly man. He told police moments earlier Deming had handed him the gun, which Mooney bought knowing it was stolen, and suggested he kill him for insurance money. There was no insurance, Carrillo told jurors.

?It was no accident,? said one Santa Rosa juror, who identified himself only as ?Brownie.?

The prosecution was right on the button on everything they did. There wasn?t even a fuzzy line.?

Mooney?s attorney, Chris Andrian, didn?t call defense witnesses. He argued prosecutors didn?t prove the financial benefit allegation.

Mooney?s family members were split into two groups during the trial, with his parents, Susan and Patrick Mooney, and two aunts supporting him, and an uncle and other family members who quietly applauded the conviction.

?That kid, he believed he was innocent right up until they read the verdicts,? said David Deming of Sonoma, Robert Deming?s son and Sean Mooney?s uncle. ?My dad was the kind of guy who would help anybody. All Sean had to do was ask for help."

David Deming thanked the jurors, saying he was pleased that they saw through his nephew?s different stories to police.

?That kid was has been spoiled and put on a pedestal his whole life. He thought he was better than everyone else,? he said. ?The only time he cried was when they read the guilty verdict, murder one.?

Carol St. Andre, Mooney?s aunt, declined to comment beyond saying she was ?disappointed in the whole justice system.? Mooney?s parents declined to speak with reporters after the verdicts. Both were called as prosecution witnesses during the trial.

Another Santa Rosa juror, who declined to give his name, said an early straw vote by jurors showed all but one juror believed Mooney was guilty of either first- or second-degree murder. One woman wasn?t entirely convinced about the financial gain aspect, the juror said.

But after Mooney?s outburst and statements validated her decision, the juror said.

Jurors took less than five hours to reach the verdicts.