I've been reading about this story for years. I don't know what really went down. It's just a shame, man. Killing little children ain't right.
Murder trial: 29 years to life sentence for Diaz
By PEIJEAN TSAI/The Daily Journal
The ex-Hells Angels leader convicted of involvement in the October 1986 massacre of a Fort Bragg family has been sentenced to 29 years to life in state prison and ordered to pay $20,000 toward a victim restitution fund.
Charles Anthony Diaz, 56, of Vallejo, was convicted May 5 of fatally cutting the throat of 5-year-old Dallas Grondalski. The girl was slain in her home with her family Bill, 32, Patty, 34, and Jeremy Vandegriff, 17, Patty's son from a previous marriage.
An accomplice, Gerald "Butch" Lester of Arkansas, was convicted November 1997 after three trials and is serving four life sentences. Diaz previously was accused of killing the entire family with Gerald Lester, but he was charged with one murder in this latest trial due to lack of evidence.
Three co-defendants Mary Anne Hodgson, 46, Robert L. Huffman, 62, and Sammie Louise Lester, 42 were also convicted in the same trial for conspiracy to cover up the murder.
On May 27, Sammie Lester, Gerald Lester's ex-wife, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison and ordered to pay a $200 fine. She already was serving time for drug and child endangerment charges.
Huffman, who is in jail for two child molestation offenses, was sentenced Thursday to one year and eight months. Hodgson will be sentenced later this month.
After a judge denied a routine motion for a new trial, Diaz read a statement before being sentenced Thursday.
In the statement, the Vallejo man affirmed his innocence and repeated what his attorney Ed Alvord argued in the trial that the real killers were Charlie Haas and Mike Tankersley, two former Sonoma County Hells Angels who testified that Diaz admitted the murders.
"Both will rape, rob and murder again," said Diaz, speaking quickly with a fierce tone as he sat in an orange jail jumpsuit.
Haas is currently in prison for multi-state drug trafficking and previously was convicted of murdering a disco manager in Germany. Tankersley, who isn't incarcerated, has a long criminal past, including assaults on police officers.
"These two animal psychopaths we will exact (vengeance) for sending an innocent person to jail for life," Diaz continued.
Both visiting Judge Stanley Young and relatives of the murder victims said they felt Diaz was making a threat rather than showing remorse. The prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Michael O'Reilley, called Diaz' attitude "cold-blooded" and "arrogant."
Even as the relatives of the Grondalski family scorned Diaz for the crime, the convicted man kept his head down, not looking at his addressors.
"We can move on; we can smile and get on with our lives," said Bill Grondalski's 53-year-old brother John after thanking the prosecution for settling a case that has plagued him for nearly 18 years.
"I want to thank the court and everybody for this: justice for Dallas," said Patty Grondalski's sister Debbie Kast, 50, holding up a T-shirt with the 5-year-old's photo and the words "Justice for Dallas."
Diaz could apply for parole after serving approximately 18 years of his sentence; however, parole is rarely granted for first- and second-degree murderers.
The Vallejo man has a criminal history, including drug and weapons offenses, but no prior felony convictions. His mother, who didn't speak before the court, quietly affirmed his innocence Thursday.
"He's not capable of doing something as bad as this," said Rita Diaz, who appeared in court for the first time during her son's legal proceedings. She briefly waved at Diaz during a court recess, but otherwise the mother and son did not appear to interact.
Shortly before the murders, the Grondalski family had moved to Fort Bragg from the Vallejo area, where Bill had been a member of the renegade motorcycle club.
Vallejo Hells Angels President Gerald Lester and Vice President Charles Diaz went after Bill because he had left the club in bad standing, owing the chapter money and sporting the club's tattoo, according to the state prosecutor.
Lester then accidentally shot Bill in a scuffle, and to get rid of potential witnesses, he and Diaz then killed the rest of the family, O'Reilley told jurors. Dallas' throat was cut by Diaz, after which, Lester shot her, O'Reilley said.
The house was later set on fire to destroy evidence.