MARTINEZ -- As he had throughout his trial, Richmond's Nathan Burris mocked the justice system and flaunted his lack of remorse as he was sentenced to death Friday for murdering two people at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza in front of horrified commuters in 2009.
Burris, the first person to receive the death penalty in Contra Costa County in three years, reacted to his punishment in the same way he represented himself at trial.
"I cannot or will not express remorse or regret -- it's not gonna happen," Burris said Friday. "For me, that's three years in the past.
"I'm in California, and there ain't no death penalty in California," he said. "The way I see it, I have a good 25-30 years left before anything happens."
Burris, 49, killed 51-year-old Richmond resident Deborah Ann Ross and 58-year-old San Leandro resident Ersie "Chuckie" Everette on Aug. 11, 2009 because he suspected they had become romantically involved after Ross broke up with him. A Contra Costa County jury in November recommended a death sentence after convicting the former truck driver of two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances.
Burris slashed Everette's tires in the toll plaza parking lot and, as the Golden Gate Transit bus driver sat in his disabled truck, killed him with a shotgun blast. He then ran up to the toll booth in which Ross, a Caltrans toll taker, was working and shot her several times as she begged for her life.
Armed with two more guns, Burris said he was prepared to kill police officers and citizens had they tried to stop him that summer evening.
The victims were friends through an Oakland church, where Everette was becoming a deacon and Ross was deemed a prayer warrior. Their families had never met before they were united in tragedy. For them, Friday's sentencing was about closure and honoring their loved ones, both described as kind and loving people who went above and beyond to care for others.
"When I look back, I'm not going to remember Nathan Burris murdering my brother. I'm going to remember he expressed his love not just by words but by actions," Ken Everette said. "If he was still alive, what kind of person would I be now? How much would I have grown by the wisdom he shared with me?
"I have no envy, no hurt towards the individual who killed my brother because I know he and Debbie are united in heaven, rejoicing and looking over us right now," he said.
While Everette's family did not know Burris before the killing, Deborah Ross had welcomed him into her family for more than a decade.
"Debbie took care of Nathan, always had his back no matter what he did. Then, one day, she got tired," Deborah's sister, Tyrice Ross, said.
"It's really hard for us. We loved Nathan because she loved him," said another sister, Ladietra Ross. "He was a good person at one time, but that time has passed.
"What he did to them, she'd still forgive him," she said.
Ross' nephew, Albert Gray, said, "The people of California need to step up and start exercising the death penalty."
Regardless of the legal challenges surrounding capital punishment in California, Burris' sentence "carries more force than any words spoken at this trial," Chief Assistant District Attorney Harold Jewett said.
"I'm not concerned at all, believe me," Burris said. "Don't get me wrong, if I was in Texas, I'd be sweating bullets."
Said Judge John Kennedy: "Time will tell if you are right."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.