On November 9th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. In preparation for oral arguments, JLWOP: Faces & Cases will be an on-going series on The Foundry that will tell real stories about juvenile offenders who are currently serving LWOP sentences.
Defendant: Norman Willover (17)
Victims: Priya Mathews, Jennifer Aninger, Frances Anne Olivo
Crimes: Two counts, first degree murder & other charges
Where: Monterey, California
Crime date: January 31, 1998
Norman Willover tried to rob two female students and then shot them, killing one and severely injuring the other.
Friends Priya Mathews and Jennifer Aninger were language students at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Norman Willover, recently escaped from a juvenile rehabilitation center in Utah, had just purchased a semiautomatic handgun at a party and told a friend that he was going to return to Monterey, California, and “cap some people…get some money and live the good life.”
On the evening of January 31, 1998, Mathews and Aninger left a coffee shop and decided to walk down to Monterey’s Municipal Wharf to enjoy the natural beauty of the ocean, night sky, and Monterey hills. A car drove toward them. Inside it were Willover and fellow members of the Oriental Boyz gang. The two women heard yelling from the car but ignored it, not realizing that it was directed at them or that Willover and his crew were demanding money.
Willover pointed his gun at Mathews and Aninger and began firing. Mathews was shot in the back, Aninger in the head and arm. Proud and happy after shooting the two girls, Willover exchanged “props” (congratulations) with his fellow gang members in the car.
Willover and his group changed cars at a friend’s house because a fellow gang member, Joseph Manibusan, wanted his turn at killing a person. They all drove to Seaside, where Manibusan shot and killed Frances Anne Olivo, a mother of six.
Doctors at the Community Hospital of Monterey saved Jennifer Aninger’s life by opening her skull for a few days until the swelling went down. Her brain injury left her without a sense of smell and impaired her sense of taste. The bullet that hit her left arm has left that limb permanently impaired.
Mathews died of her wounds.
Willover was tried, convicted, and sentenced to two consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole. Manibusan, tried separately for murder, was convicted and sentenced to death.
Charles D. Stimson is Senior Legal Fellow and Andrew M. Grossman is Senior Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.