Jason Michael Hann looks around the courtroom Friday during his sentencing hearing in Indio. / Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun
INDIO — A father who killed both of his children weeks after they were born was sentenced to death Friday for murdering his 10-week-old daughter in Desert Hot Springs.
The infant girl died less than two years after her 2-month-old brother was killed in Vermont.
Jason Michael Hann, 39, admitted to killing two of his children weeks after they were born, according to trial documents. The infants’ bodies were discovered 1,500 miles apart from each other in separate storage units and in advanced stages of decomposition.
Hann, who was already serving an up to a 30 year sentence for the death of his son in Vermont in 1999, was convicted of first-degree murder and assault on a child causing great bodily injury for the 2001-killing of his daughter. His sentence was also enhanced because of the “special circumstance” of having a previous murder conviction.
Hann’s girlfriend Krissy Lynn Werntz, 34, who is the infant’s mother, was also charged in the killing, described as “gruesome and horrific” by Riverside County prosecutors. Werntz is scheduled to stand trial on March 17.
Dressed in his jail-issued orange jumpsuit, Hann seemed emotionless as Riverside Superior Court Judge James Hawkins denied a motion from the defense to lower the death penalty to life without parole, upholding the jury’s original recommendation. Judge Hawkins said the death penalty was warranted because of the aggravating circumstances of the crime.
“The sentence was appropriate and justice was served,” said Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria.
Hann hit his daughter Montana in the head inflicting fatal skull fractures. He then wrapped her head in duct tape and her body in plastic trash bags and placed her in a “blue Tupperware-type container,” DiMaria said during the trial.
The container was placed in a popup trailer that ended up inside an Arkansas storage unit rented by the couple in 2001, according to trial documents.
“It was a horrific crime. That was the hard part for a lot of us,” said Bruce Price, an alternate juror in the trial. “There was a big relief from all the jurors once we found him guilty.”
However, Price said the penalty phase was hard on some of the jurors.
“These kids never had a chance of life,” Price said, adding that the death penalty was well deserved in this case. “This guy was trying to cover up his crimes as he went along.”
A year after baby Montana died, her parents, described by prosecutors at trial as living a “transient, gypsy-style life,” stopped making payments for the locker and its contents were auctioned off.
Montana’s body was discovered by a man who bought the trailer from the storage company at an auction, according to trial documents.
Hann and Wertz were arrested in 2002 at a motel in Portland, Maine where they were staying with their 1-month-old boy, who investigators determined was also abused, suffering from numerous broken ribs, bleeding under his skull and other internal injuries. This child was adopted and renamed.
“He had already committed a crime against someone and he was in the process of doing the same thing,” Price said. “He got what he deserved.”
A day after the couple’s arrest in Maine, investigators found the body of a second infant, a two-month-old boy named Jason, in a storage unit in Lake Havasu, Ariz. Jason, who was killed in Vermont in 1999 less than two year before Montana, was found similarly wrapped in trash bags inside a rubber container.
Hann was serving a 30 year sentence for his son Jason’s death when he was extradited to California in 2009 to be tried for Montana’s killing. The death-penalty case took four years to make its way through the system and into opening arguments.
Blake Herzog contributed to this report.