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Former Cal Star Gets 45 Years

October 9, 1998 GMT

SACRAMENTO (AP) _ Far removed from moments of glory on the football field, onetime California star Mariet Ford sat in court stonefaced Friday as he was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison for killing his pregnant wife and toddler son.

Before Superior Court Judge John Stroud imposed the sentence, Teresita Ford’s father eulogized his slain daughter and urged the court to put Ford away long enough ``to make sure this man cannot do it again.″

Ford, 37, was a standout receiver who gained national renown as a participant in ``The Play,″ the last-ditch kickoff return Cal used to beat Stanford in 1982.

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In court Friday, he stared straight ahead as trembling Francisco Cabello read his statement. Other relatives sobbed in the background. Across the aisle, Ford’s mother, Carrie, sat quietly, reading from the Bible.

``As a World War II veteran, I marched in the dreaded `Death March’ after the fall of Bataan,″ Cabello said in a halting voice. ``I was imprisoned. I was tortured. But I survived them all. Surviving the loss of a young daughter and younger grandchildren has been so depleting, so painful, so much waste.″

Cabello tearfully recalled his slain grandson pestering him to take him fishing.

``I had promised him he can go with me when he is 5 years old. He never made it,″ Cabello said.

Ford, Cal’s 1982 MVP whose blind, over-the-shoulder toss to a trailing teammate was the last of five laterals in ``The Play,″ testified in his own defense during the trial and denied the killings. He said nothing during his sentencing.

He was convicted April 22 of three counts of second-degree murder in the bludgeon slayings of his 3-year-old son Mariet ``Mo-Mo″ Ford, his 31-year-old wife, and the couple’s unborn child. Teresita Ford was more than eight months pregnant when she was killed.

The killings occurred Jan. 16, 1997, in the family’s suburban Sacramento home. Additionally, Ford was convicted of arson for setting the bodies on fire.

During the month-long trial, prosecutors portrayed Ford, a salesman for a telecommunications company, as a philandering husband who went into a deadly rage.

Trapped in an unhappy marriage and stressed by financial problems, Ford snapped, lashed out violently at his family and has been lying ever since in an attempt to cover up his involvement, prosecutors said.

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Defense lawyer William Gagen, whose motion for a new trial was denied shortly before the sentencing, said Ford continues to maintain his innocence.

``Obviously, I’ve worked with him a lot and I have never personally perceived any expression of guilt on the part of Mariet Ford,″ Gagen said. ``I know a lot of people who know Mariet. I’ve talked to a lot of people that know Mariet and a lot of people support Mariet. And the universal feeling was: `This was a charming, gentle guy. Could a guy like that just for some reason have done this?′ I guess anything is possible. But is it hard on us because of the circumstances? You bet.″

He said the defense over the next 60 days would look into filing an appeal and continue trying to develop evidence that others could have been responsible for the killings.

Deputy district attorney Mark Curry said he was satisfied justice was served.

``I worked this case from the beginning, and it’s rewarding to take it the whole, long way and finally seeing him go to prison,″ Curry said.

The judge specified that Ford serve the three terms of 15-years-to-life consecutively while a 5-year term on the arson count will run concurrently. Curry said Ford will have to serve at least 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

``In effect it’s a life term for him. He’d be a very old man by the time he saw a parole board,″ Curry said.