Before this case, Rhoades already was on death row in San Quentin prison for the 1996 torture and murder of 8-year-old Michael Lyons of Yuba City.
The jury began deliberating on the penalty phase about 3:30 p.m. Monday and returned with a verdict about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday. The jury found Rhoades guilty of first-degree murder April 10 after deliberating for less than an hour.
"It was a slam dunk," said juror Shannon Perkins, 38, of Livermore. "The worst criminals deserve the worst punishment."
Many jurors greeted the Connell family Monday as they walked into the courtroom before closing arguments began, and some looked toward the Connell family Tuesday before answering "yes" when polled by the court clerk after theverdict was read.
"I'm glad they (Connell's parents) lived long enough to see him (Rhoades) caught and given justice," Perkins said. "And it was a huge statement that none of his family was here to say anything on his behalf."
"We were certain" of the verdict, said fellow juror Natascha Garcia, 31, of Newark. "We're going home happy and comfortable with our decision."
Garcia said jurors were "shocked and disturbed" when they were told before the start of the penalty phase that Rhoades already had been convicted of murder and was on death row. The jury was not told of Rhoades' prior conviction until after he was found guilty of killing Connell.
Judge Joseph Hurley will formally sentence Rhoades on June 19 after reviewing the evidence and deciding whether it supports the jury's decision.
"My client is disappointed by the verdict," Rhoades' attorney Albert Wax said. "He was not surprised by it. He looks forward to a successful appeal,"
Senior Deputy District Attorney Angela Backers, who prosecuted the case, said she was delighted by the jury's decision.
"I think it was the only just punishment in this case," she said. "I'm very pleased for Julie's and Michael's families."
Julie Connell's parents and sister and Michael Lyons' mother and her husband were in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
"It has been an awful long road, and we're glad it's over," said Julie's father, James Connell. "This has affected a lot of people, and I hope the outcome affects all the people in a positive manner."
"It is a happy day for us," added Kathy Connell, Julie's mother.
DNA evidence from the Connell slaying was matched to Rhoades in 1998, when his DNA was collected during the investigation into the murder of Lyons.
"I'm glad something positive came out of Michael being taken from us," said Sandra Fuller, the boy's mother.
Alejandro Alfonso can be reached at (510) 293-2469 or email@example.com.