Man who set kids on fire to serve life in prison without parole

Mark Fregia, 39, will be sentenced to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for setting a fire that killed his two children in 2003 and permanently disfigured their mother in Pinole.

The children's mother, 31-year-old Erin Weaver, ran crying from the Contra Costa County Superior courtroom as soon as the verdict was read today.

Fregia had convinced Weaver to bring the children Christmas shopping with him at Toys R' Us in Vallejo on Dec. 18, 2003, but as soon as the family got in the car, he began driving in the opposite direction. As they neared the Appian Way exit off Interstate Highway 80 in Pinole, Fregia began dousing Weaver with gasoline and then set her on fire. She suffered burns to 85 percent of her body and spent nine months in the hospital.

The two children, 6-year-old Devlin Weaver, Weaver's daughter from a previous relationship, and 2-year-old Daelin Fregia, died trapped inside the burning car.

Fregia testified during the trial that he had only meant to terrorize Weaver when he poured the gasoline on her and that he did not mean to kill anyone. Defense witnesses and prosecution witnesses testified during the two-month trial that Fregia loved his children and been a devoted father.

Larry Barnes, one of Fregia's two attorneys, said the verdict was a relief.

“We really appreciate how conscientious this jury was,” Susan Hutcher, chief supervising attorney in Contra Costa County's Alternate Defender's Office, said outside the Martinez courthouse.

“This was a difficult case and a terrible tragedy,” Hutcher said.

She also said that Fregia has taken full responsibility for his crimes, that he felt “completely remorseful” for what he did and will be living with that remorse for the rest of his life in state prison.

“He's really devastated by what he did,” Hutcher said. “He's extremely, extremely sorry for what he did.”

“We told the truth,” was all Fregia's mother, Susan Armstrong, would say. During the trial, Armstrong and her sisters testified that they had grown up in an abusive household. Fregia, who was raised primarily by his grandparents, grew up witnessing that same abuse, family members said.

Defense experts diagnosed Fregia with borderline personality disorder and severe depression. They also said they felt Fregia's remorse for his crimes was genuine.

Weaver's family did not wish to comment on the verdict, nor did any members of the jury.

“I'm disappointed for the family, but that's why we have 12 people from the community to look at the evidence and decide,” Prosecutor Paul Graves said.

Fregia will be formally sentenced Feb. 8.

The same six man and six woman jury convicted Fregia on Dec. 3 of two counts first-degree murder for the deaths of the children and one count each of attempted voluntary manslaughter, arson with the use of an accelerant causing great bodily injury, aggravated mayhem, kidnapping, and carjacking.

Jurors also found true a series of special circumstances, including committing multiple murders and killing someone in the commission of a felony, which made Fregia eligible for the death penalty.

— Bay City News

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