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Top 10 stories of 2013: 6. Convicted serial killer Nissensohn given death penalty

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From page A13 | January 03, 2014 | 5 Comments

nissensohn

JOSEPH MICHAEL NISSENSOHN listens in court. Democrat file photo by Pat Dollins

It took a jury 90 minutes on Dec. 10 to decide that a man who had recently been convicted of three first-degree murders should receive the death penalty.

Joseph Michael Nissensohn was convicted by a jury in late October of killing Tammy Jarschke and Tanya Jones in Seaside, near Monterey, in 1981, and Kathy Graves in South Lake Tahoe in 1989. He had been charged with the three murders just before his release, serving 15 years for the second-degree murder of Sally Tsaggaris in Seattle in 1991.

The trial to determine whether Nissensohn — who ”views himself as a serial killer,” prosecutor Dale Gomes asserted during the opening of his closing — was guilty featured a story of sex and drugs that spiraled into murder.

Late ex-wife Cheryl Rose testified of the murders and called Nissensohn a serial killer. Sandy Volkert, another ex-wife, said she was not into the BDSM sexual lifestyle Nissensohn enjoyed. Kim Eliason testified how she was kidnapped by Nissensohn over a disagreement about drugs and that he raped her in the back of a milk truck at gun- and knifepoint. Brenda Miller initially found him charming until he demanded sex and beat her afterwards. He would also blindfold her, strip her naked and “show off his conquest” to friends. Summer Dawn, Miller’s daughter, was led to a shed under the pretense of a hunting trip when she was 5 years old and made into Nissensohn’s juvenile sex slave — something he had always wanted. Jessica Pillow, who was with Nissensohn for less than a week while she was a juvenile, was also molested. Maggie Myers said he was obsessed with wanting to have sex with Kathy Graves, one of his alleged victims. A book about serial killer Paul Bernardo — eerily close to Nissensohn’s own story of sex, drugs, murder and Nissensohn’s dreams of having an underage sex slave — was found in his jail cell.

Defense attorneys Hayes Gable III and Peter Kmeto attempted to sway the jury, to no avail, by pointing out that there was no DNA evidence positively linking Nissensohn to the murders and that crime scene investigations had been botched. They also thoroughly examined whether memories had been filled in by the witnesses’ minds, whether events happened as had been testified.

But a three-day deliberation handed out the same verdict for all three charges: Guilty of first-degree murder.

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Discussion | 5 comments

  • No JusticeJanuary 04, 2014 - 10:21 am

    This person is the poster child for the death penalty. Sentenced to Life in Prison by the State of Washington. He was to be released back into our society. If it wasn't for our DA prosecuting him on 30 year old cases, who knows what poor child's life Nissensohn would have destroyed. Now we will have to be vigilant to make sure that this convicted child murderer isn't released yet again. Due to death row professionals like Steve Bailey and Dylan Sullivan. We will have to continue wasting energy prosecuting an already convicted serial killer

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  • JimmyJanuary 04, 2014 - 10:34 am

    It is unclear what Judge Bailey or Commissioner Sullivan have to do with the Nissensohn case. Neither person has had any involvement in the prosecution, defense or judging in Nissensohn's case. Other than some early hearings conducted by Judge Phimister, Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury has handled the case throughout.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • No JusticeJanuary 04, 2014 - 1:05 pm

    Steve Bailey and Dylan Sullivan spent their entire legal careers defending Death Row convicted criminals.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JimmyJanuary 04, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    Can't really comment about Judge Bailey's "entire legal career" being spent on defending death row criminals, but he has been a judge for the past four years and certainly isn't defending death row criminals at the moment. Commissioner Sullivan has spent a good portion of her legal career adjudicating cases for the Parole Board, where she made decisions about whether convicted criminals, including muurderers, were granted parole. For the past 2-1/2 years adjudicating almost all types of cases here for the El Dorado County Superior Court. Neither of those positions involve defending death row criminals.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • No JusticeJanuary 04, 2014 - 3:47 pm

    Both built their careers defending death row inmates.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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