Man gets 16 to life for student’s 1983 murder

In a courtroom full of emotion and tearful testimonies, Edmond Jay Marr was sentenced Monday to 16- years-to-life in prison for the 1983 murder of CSUN student Elaine Graham.

Before San Fernando Superior Court Judge Charles Peven handed down the 15- years-to-life second-degree murder sentence plus one additional year for the use of a weapon, Graham’s husband Stephen Graham, daughter Elyse Graham and best friend Kit Chambers, all addressed the court and Marr about the impact the events on that cold St. Patrick’s Day have had on their lives.

On March 14, Marr, 47, pled guilty to second-degree murder before jury selection was to begin for his trial. Although Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said in court yesterday that he appreciated that Marr “stepped up to the plate and took responsibility,” Stephen Graham found Marr’s plea of guilt especially hollow.

“When they asked you, ‘Did you stab Elaine to death?’ you said, ‘Yes,’ (as) if you had been caught stealing a pack of gum from the store,” Stephen Graham said before the courtroom.

Marr’s father was killed in a military plane crash on March 16, 1962, on his way to Vietnam, exactly 21 years to the day that Marr was kicked out of the military, Lewin said. Marr abducted Graham from a CSUN parking lot and murdered her the day after his military expulsion, Lewin said.

Stephen Graham told Marr in front of the court that Marr’s father’s death should have made him the last person to take a young mother’s life.

“Edmond,” Stephen Graham said. “How did it feel (after your father died) with only memories recreated by others? How could you rob somebody (of the same thing)?”

Through the years, Stephen Graham said he has experienced a vast array of emotions, and fantasized early on about using his medical expertise to exact his revenge against Marr.

“For 22 years, I’ve thought about this moment, to address the (monster),” Stephen Graham said. “I’ve grown older. I would ask God and man to keep the bad away from the good. (There) has not been a day I have not thought of Elaine, that I have not sent her my love across the void.”

Stephen Graham continued.

“I hope you live a long life,” Stephen Graham said to Marr. “We will be watching. We, the victims. We, the police. We, the district attorney. To make sure that you never get your freedom.”

Elaine Graham’s daughter, Elyse Graham, who was 2 years old at the time of the murder, spoke about wishes unfulfilled.

Birthday parties and graduation ceremonies were especially tough, Elyse Graham said.

“Twenty-two years of wishes,” Elyse Graham said. “And always the same wish. I wished to see my mom.”

How could Marr ask for mercy, Elyse Graham asked in court, when he showed no mercy for her mother 22 years ago?

“Did she beg for her life to be with her baby girl?” Elyse Graham said. “You gave me a life sentence. You gave me a broken heart.”

Lewin displayed in court a series of photographs of an art exhibit Elyse Graham created while a student at Brown University.

“It’s called ‘Disappearance,'” Elyse Graham said after the sentencing. “It’s a sculptural installation with combined (writings) of my mother and my own. I was trying to create a mother I don’t have.”

Elaine Graham’s case was investigated and prosecuted under the Cold Case taskforce, a joint project between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, in which decades-old unsolved cases are reinvestigated utilizing modern forensic technology.

Lewin said he has worked on more than 100 cold cases, but the early detective work of retired detectives Paul Tippen and Leroy Orozco was the best he has ever seen. The detectives stayed involved with the case after their retirement, including Tippen’s yearly inquiry on the anniversary of Graham’s death to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

It was after one of these calls that the coroner’s office reexamined their evidence ,and concluded that a small nick on the victim’s vertebrae came from a knife. This, along with a “partial DNA profile” provided by the Graham family, and statements Marr made since the murder, proved to be enough to get a plea of guilt from Marr.

Lewin, as well as Stephen Graham, had high praise for the work of Detectives Rick Jackson and Tim Marcia of LAPD’s Cold Case Unit.

Lewin said after learning what a compassionate and wonderful person Elaine Graham was, as a father, he “felt inadequate” compared to her. Lewin said Elaine Graham began writing to Elyse Graham, her daughter, so she would understand her mother better as an adult.

In what Lewin said turned out to de a prophetic moment, Elaine Graham had a strange dream in the days leading up to her death.

Lewin read from her writings, “‘Dear, Elyse. Last night I dreamt of you. It was funny. You and I were detectives chasing crooks. I was captured. You were getting away.”

Lewin went on to explain the dream was about solving a murder.

Lewin pointed out that the critical DNA sample in the case did not come from Elaine Graham, but from her daughter, Elyse Graham.

“Elaine had a premonition that her daughter would help her solve a crime,” Lewin said. “She did. Her own murder.”