Clarence Butterfield

Clarence Butterfield (KTLA-TV / August 9, 2010)

SANTA ANA (KTLA) -- An Orange County father was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for torturing and murdering his daughter and keeping her body in a freezer for two years.

Clarence Butterfield, 57, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Rebekah Butterfield, 21, during the commission of torture and mayhem.

Rebekah's nude and decomposing body was discovered in October 2008 in an unplugged freezer in her father's motor home after it was impounded at a San Clemente tow yard when he was arrested on an unrelated charge.

Evidence presented during his two-week trial revealed that she had been dead for nearly two years – since Dec. 25 or 26, 2006.

During the trial, prosecutors called Butterfield a "cold-blooded, black-hearted monster."

Butterfield did admit to keeping Rebekah's body in the freezer of his motor home, but said he did not kill her.

He claimed he found her dead on December 26, 2006 and was unable to revive her.

"It was kind of stressful to walk in and see your daughter dead," he said during trial. "I didn't know what to do."

Defense attorney Lisa Eyanson said Butterfield kept his daughter's body in a freezer because he loved her and couldn't bear to be apart from her.

"He told investigators that he remembered reading in the Bible that as long as you have the bones and you have faith, maybe the person could be resurrected, could come back," Eyanson said.

Prosecutors, however, said the former San Clemente construction worker shot Rebekah seven times with a small caliber gun in the leg, foot, knee and side of her head and elsewhere to torture her, then stuffed her into the RV's freezer where she suffocated.

"She was still alive" when Butterfield placed her in the five-foot horizontal freezer, said Baytieh.

Authorities found the woman's badly decomposing body in Butterfield's RV in 2008 after he was arrested and sent to Nevada on an unrelated criminal warrant.

Butterfield lived in the 1995 Chevrolet Tioga Arrow motor home that was parked on private property in the Capistrano Beach area of Dana Point.

He was arrested in Dana Point on Sept. 20, 2008 on a Las Vegas warrant for forgery, burglary and theft, Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

The owner of the property where the motor home was parked had the RV towed while Butterfield was in custody in Nevada. Electricity was cut off to the RV when it was towed and the body thawed out. Workers were going through the home when the body was discovered, Amormino said.

Sheriff's homicide detectives went to North Carolina to get a DNA sample from the young woman's mother to positively identify her.

Rebekah Butterfield's body was wrapped in sheets of plastic. She had not been seen by her mother for two years.

Authorities said Clarence Butterfield has a history of domestic violence and drifted between Orange and Riverside counties and Las Vegas, Amormino said.