Mouser guilty of stepdaughter's killing

By TY PHILLIPS

BEE STAFF WRITER
(Published: Tuesday, December 21, 1999)

   A Stanislaus County jury Monday morning convicted Douglas Mouser of murdering his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

   The second-degree murder verdict comes after a three- month trial and more than four years after Genna Lyn Gamble's nude body was found along Dry Creek near Waterford. The Modesto girl, a freshman at Beyer High School, had been strangled.

   A few minutes after the verdict was read, a handcuffed Mouser sat in an otherwise empty courtroom and talked with his wife, Kathy Mouser, and his parents.

   Moments later, deputies led him past crying family members to begin a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Mouser's attorney, Richard Herman, said he would appeal the decision early next year.

   The verdict left those on both sides of the case talking about one thing -- justice.

   "I couldn't be happier," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Birgit Fladager, who prosecuted the case with Joseph "Rick" Distaso. "We feel this was the correct and proper result. It's been a long time coming, all the way around."

   Herman simply couldn't believe the verdict.

   "This is a tragedy for the family and a tragedy for justice," Herman said. "It's the greatest miscarriage of justice I've ever seen, heard or read about. ... There is no justice in Stanislaus County."

   Tom Gamble, Genna's father, said the verdict brings as much closure as he's going to find.

   "I think it's terrible any time a child, anyone's child, is lost like this," he said. "Murder is a horrible thing. Genna is, as any human being is, irreplaceable. ... I think justice was served."

   Mouser, 39, was found guilty of strangling Gamble in October 1995 in their Modesto home and then dumping her body. It wasn't until August 1997 that the computer expert, who once held a top-secret security clearance at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was arrested and charged with the slaying.

   Little physical evidence tied Mouser to the girl's body, forcing the prosecution to build its case on circumstantial evidence. Fladager felt, in some ways, that may have worked to the prosecution's advantage.

   "It's hard to attack circumstantial evidence," Fladager said, alluding to Mouser's alibi of being at work when Genna was murdered. No evidence, including data to indicate he had worked at his computer, supported his claim of being at work. "The computer had no reason to not show entries. ... When you get enough (circumstantial evidence), it fits together so tightly and so well, and it's pretty darn compelling."

   The jury agreed. Jurors declined to be interviewed, but several told prosecutors they were impressed by the evidence from the outset.

   Jurors, who deliberated for six days, also told prosecutors that interviews of Mouser and his wife contained statements that didn't make sense.

   "Once (Mouser) told an interviewer, 'You know it takes a long time to kill someone like that,' " Fladager said. "The interviewer indicated he didn't know. Then (Doug) Mouser said, 'Well, it's got to take three minutes.' Now that's a strange thing to say."

   Also, jurors cited a taped conversation between Kathy Mouser and her son, Gerren Gamble, recorded the day Mouser was arrested. Gerren asked if she thought Mouser killed his sister. His mother replied, "You know how Genna was."

   Defense attorney miffed

   Herman tried to console Mouser family members, while he, too, searched for answers.

   "This shakes my whole foundation of my practicing of criminal law," Herman said. "It gives me good reason to believe that I should finish the cases I have on my books and move someplace else."

   Herman said he would file a motion to have Superior Court Judge Donald E. Shaver review the evidence. Shaver can reduce the charge to manslaughter.

   Herman said he believes he presented numerous points that should have raised reasonable doubt in jurors' minds.

   One centered around marks on Genna's leg. A key prosecution expert said the marks were caused by pressing against the edge of the carpet and seat belt buckle in Mouser's car.

   "The mark on her leg was testified to by two pathologists, theirs and ours, and a number of other experts as being a panty mark," Herman said.

   "There is no physical evidence that relates him to her. The therapist said all the issues the child had were with the mother. There were three sightings of Genna that day after 11 o'clock. Any and all of these things are areas of reasonable doubt."

   But when Herman entered the courtroom Monday, he had a bad feeling.

   "All I can tell you is the courtroom was heavy with doom when I walked in," Herman said. "It was in the air."

   Staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at 578-2331.