CREATED Oct. 12, 2012
INDIO--More details on a story that we've been following closely for weeks now, the murder of Sky Valley resident Arianna Villarreal. Her accused killer Richard Perdock could face the death penalty.
The Perdock murder sparked our investigation into what types of crimes merit the death penalty as a punishment.
We spoke with the Riverside County District Attorney's office and one of the state's leading experts on criminal law to find out.
First degree murder is classified as premeditated and deliberate, but in order to get the death penalty you have to have a special circumstance.
"They're the real serious cases," KMIR 6 Legal Expert, John Patrick Dolan said.
Dolan says there are 20 special circumstances in the penal code that can raise a case to the death penalty. In the case of Richard Perdock, torture and kidnapping fit the bill.
"They're the cases like I said that involve multiple killings or particularly heinous killings or torture killings or poison killings or killings that are just the worst of the worst."
Perdock was arrested a few weeks ago after fleeing from police. Court documents revealed Perdock stabbed his ex-girlfriend Arianna Villarreal with scissors and a pencil, beat her with brass knuckles, before putting her body in a sleeping bag and burying her in a shallow grave.
"This is a case where the facts are pretty heinous, hence that's why we allege the special circumstances of torture and we believe he engaged in that behavior prior to murdering our victim," Pete Nolan, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney said.
It's up to the District Attorney to decide whether or not the death penalty fits the crime.