Buildup to Fatal Hammer Attack Described

Teenager vents rage toward mother; murder and alibi planned

Robert Bob Kraft
FILE - Getty Images

Over the Internet, in draft text messages and conversations with a friend, the homicidal thoughts of a 14-year-old Scripps Ranch girl apparently reached 'critical mass' on the day before she admittedly bludgeoned her mother to death with her father's claw hammer.

Details about the buildup to the attack came out Wednesday in testimony during a preliminary hearing for Heather D'Aoust, now 15, who's being prosecuted as an adult on counts of murder and assault.
 
Adopted as an infant, D'Aoust faces a possible prison sentence of 30 years to life. On Wednesday a Superior Court judge ordered her to stand trial.

Her 56-year-old mother Rebecca, a teacher and counselor at Spreckels Elementary School, died of head injuries a day after the May 25th hammer attack in the family's Scripps Ranch home.

The day before the killing, according to a San Diego Police detective, Heather poured out feelings about killing her parents to a friend whom Rebecca D'Aoust caught having "sexual activity" with Heather in the girl's bedroom -- starting a simmering mother-daughter argument.

Homicide Det. Cynthia Munoz testified that the friend, identified only as Micaela, quoted Heather as follows in an interview that was part of the investigation:
 
 "Heather was making spontaneous statements throughout the day," Munoz said.  "One of them: 'God, I hate her (Rebecca), I just want to kill one of them'.  She indicated, she was asking questions like, 'How many sleeping pills would it take to poison someone?'  She asked 'If I put it in her coffee, would she be able to taste it?'

 "She made another statement about a baseball bat," Munoz continued.  "'How many times would I have to hit somebody with a baseball bat to make sure they were dead?'  Another comment was made about a rope.  She was trying to figure out how she could put a rope around their neck without waking them.  And then she would pull it.


 "And then she asked Micaela if, 'Do you think they would be able to scream?  Would they scream'?"

 FBI special agent Tim Hanon, a computer forensics examiner with the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, testified about draft text messages he found on Heather's cell phone, on which Heather had listed her mother's caller ID as Vulture.

 "Wake up.  Kill with hammer as they wake up," one message began, according to Hanon.  "Hide bodies in the back seat of van.  Drive to church.  Leave Christian-hating note, steal money.  Bike home.  Go to sleep again.  Say I was asleep, then assume they went to church, then out to errands, maybe visit."

 Another draft text message furthers an apparent alibi scheme: "Have friends over as planned.  Asked Ash to give Jackie a ride.  Sleepover.  Don't worry until after Jackie leaves ...

 "Report to authorities, act panicked and explained I waited a day to see if they returned."

 Another RCFL computer forensics examiner, NCIS Special Agent Patrick Lim, testified about computer searches on a family computer late in the evening before the hammer attack -- searches authorities have narrowed down to Heather as the user at the time.

 Among the keywords, according to Lim: lethal household items, unsolved murders, parents murdered by child.
 
 The searches accessed a website named "Top Ten Murder Weapons", with a hammer listed as number six.

 Nine hours later, Rebecca D'Aoust lay mortally injured on her kitchen floor.

 Moments after the attack, Heather swung the hammer at her father, James, hitting what he testified was a "glancing blow" on the back of his head before he wrested her under control.

 James D'Aoust said Heather told him "I killed Mom" and repeatedly asked him to kill her: "There's a gun, get a gun.  The (neighbors) have a gun.  Go get the gun."

 Heather -- who had posted a suicide note on her MySpace page and begun cutting herself -- has a history of mental illness, according to her lawyer Paul Pfingst, a former district attorney.

She's due back in court December 23 to set a trial date. Legal analysts say a plea of insanity or "diminished actuality" may be in the offing.         

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