Rodeo man convicted of killing wife

August 13, 2008 9:15:24 PM PDT
Jurors in Martinez today found a Rodeo man guilty of second-degree murder for fatally beating and strangling his wife in their Rodeo home in 2006.

Steven Burr, 38, killed Diana Basham, 40, on June 26 during what his attorney, Brandon Banks, characterized as a heated argument. After killing her, Burr slit his own wrists and lay down next to his wife to die, but the suicide attempt was unsuccessful. He called 911 three hours later and confessed to the killing.

Prosecutor Danielle Douglas, however, said Burr killed Basham because he believed she was cheating on him and because she had recently asked him to move out of the house.

Banks said today he was disappointed by the verdict.

"I think it was an unfortunate result and I think the jury made the wrong decision," Banks said. "I think justice for Mr. Burr would have been manslaughter and I think that's what the facts showed."

Basham's sister, Stacy Hofacre, said she and the rest of her family were also disappointed by the verdict. They had been hoping for the jury to convict Burr of first-degree murder.

"He's got God to face as soon as he dies, God and Diana," Basham's father, Gene Basham, said.

Hofacre described her sister as a loyal friend, a good sister who was always there for her and a good mother to the two children she left behind.

At the time of her murder, Basham had been struggling to come to terms with the murder of her brother, Darren Kretchmar, 21, who, along with two other people, was shot 11 months earlier in Fernandez Park in Pinole by an alleged Sureno gang member.

According to prosecutors, the victims were allegedly targeted because two of them were wearing red shirts, the color claimed by the rival gang the Nortenos.

None of the victims were associated with any gang, police said.

Kretchmar and David Gregory, an 18-year-old Hercules resident, were both shot in the face and died. A third victim, Pinole resident Richard Male, 19, survived the shooting, and a woman who was with them was not injured.

Daniel Ruiz, the alleged gunman, will be in Contra Costa County Court in January to set a date for trial, according to the district attorney's office. Co-defendant Teresita Rodriguez is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 2 with the same judge who presided over Burr's trial, according to a superior court clerk.

Hofacre said that although the public's perception seems to be that a domestic killing is somehow a lesser crime than a random gang shooting, she found her sister's killing even more difficult to deal with because it was personal.

"To me it's a worse crime that somebody who says they love you would brutally beat you to death," Hofacre said.

Worse still was that Burr had been with Basham when Kretchmar was killed and knew what the family was going through when he killed Basham, Hofacre said.

Burr is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26 in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. He faces 15 years to life in prison.


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