Dennis Webb: Sentenced to death in 1988

1988 - Dennis Webb, who murdered an Atascadero couple, on death row.
1988 - Dennis Webb, who murdered an Atascadero couple, on death row.

Dennis Duane Webb was sentenced to death in 1988 for torturing and killing a young Atascadero couple.

On the night of Feb. 4, 1987, Webb broke into the home of John and Lori Rainwater, devout Christians who managed a 14-unit lodge at 8750 El Camino Real. The intent was to rob the couple, prosecutors said during the trial, but he spent the night beating and raping them.

John Rainwater, 25, was bludgeoned five times in the back of the head. His wife, 22-year-old Lori Rainwater, was struck four times in the back of the head.

The wounds, which split their scalps to their skulls, possibly were caused by pistol-whippings, a pathologist testified.

The couple's wrists and ankles were bound with nylon stockings, duct tape and belts. They also were gagged. The bonds were left on between 30 minutes and seven hours and were so tight that they drew blood.

Somehow, the couple got partially loose around 6 a.m. and ran, screaming, out of their home, only to be gunned down.

John Rainwater was shot in the chest from within a 2-foot range. He was then shot in the back of the head; the gun that caused that wound was just a few inches away. The head wound killed Rainwater instantly.

Lori Rainwater suffered one gunshot wound — caused by a gun that possibly was touching her head when fired. That wound caused an immediate loss of consciousness and death within a few minutes.

Investigators found blood all over the interior of the Rainwaters' two-bedroom home. Furnishings were knocked over and scattered.

Blood was discovered on a door, a desk, a broken bookshelf, three walls, a curtain, the floor, a bed, a coat and a child's playpen.

Two trails of blood were found leading from the front door of the home.

When authorities arrived at the lodge, they found the Rainwater children, a 15-month-old girl and a 7-day-old baby boy, underneath their mother's naked body. Although covered with dirt and broken glass, the girl was not injured and the boy had only slight scrapes to his head.

The children lived with relatives after their parents were killed. In 1988, a family member said they were too young to have suffered any psychological damage from seeing their parents gunned down.

Police did not have any suspects in the case until Webb's former girlfriend went to the police approximately two months after the slayings.

Investigators said Webb didn't act alone, and while they think they know who his accomplice was, they never had enough evidence to bring a case to trial. The suspect died while a patient at Patton State Hospital.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Webb got a chance to speak — and shocked the courtroom when he claimed responsibility for five other murders. He also asked for the death penalty.

"I'm not here because my conscience is bothering me," he said. "I haven't got any remorse. I don't care."

At times during his testimony, Webb laughed. He also took off his shirt and pointed out tattoos memorializing his past killings.

Webb was convicted of burglary, robbery and two counts of first-degree murder. He was not charged with sexual assault, though prosecutors contended throughout the trial that Webb raped Lori Rainwater and sodomized John Rainwater.

Just before the sentence was read, people in the courtroom cried out, imploring Webb to reveal who else had been involved in murdering the couple. Webb refused, but hinted that he an accomplice when he said, "It's bad enough that I have to ride this beef alone."

In August 1988, Webb was sentenced to die. He laughed when the verdict was read.