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Friday, June 5, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Woman Turned Vampire And Drank Her Victim's Blood, Prosecutors Say

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A routine murder trial in Santa Cruz has turned into a modern-day Dracula drama as prosecutors accuse a 20-year-old woman of being a vampire who killed a neighbor and drank his blood as part of a bizarre fantasy.

Deborah Jean Finch, a former roller-coaster operator at the Beach Boardwalk amusement park, is charged with first-degree murder.

During opening statements in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Wednesday, prosecutors said they will prove that Finch stabbed 22-year-old Brandon McMichaels 27 times in the neck and chest at his apartment the night of April 25, 1991.

Detectives originally reported that the killing was carried out as a suicide pact after a day of drunken revelry, when McMichaels, a mentally unstable heavy drinker, had begged Finch to stab him.

Police found her bloody fingerprint on the wall of her apartment. Finch confessed to the suicide deal during taped interviews with police last year.

But as the trial opened, Assistant District Attorney George Kovacevich wove a much more sinister tale.

Kovacevich said the slaying was the climax of Finch's two-year obsession with vampires.

Finch's defense attorney, Bill Minkner, angrily derided the vampire accusations as a desperate search by prosecutors for a motive other than suicide.

"This is a hoax," Minkner said. "They've got nothing."

Finch joked about vampires often, Minkner said, after high-school friends gave her the nickname because she had touched a dead cat in the road on a dare.

The trial is expected to last up to five weeks.

A key witness - and the source of the vampire accusations - is Finch's former roommate, Heather Maxwell, 18, who will testify for the prosecution.

Maxwell and Finch met while working at a fast-food restaurant in Vail, Colo. They drove to Santa Cruz in early 1991.

Maxwell, an admitted Satan worshiper, originally was arrested as a possible accessory to the crime, but was released days later.

When she returned to Santa Cruz from New Mexico for the trial, she told district attorney's investigator Dennis Clark for the first time that Finch had told her she drank McMichaels' blood.

Finch's father, Clifton Finch, called the vampire charges "outrageous." He described his daughter as a regular worshiper at the local Catholic church in Colorado who fell in with the wrong crowd after he and his wife divorced.

"All this isn't consistent with the Debbie I lived with for 17 years," he said. "She's a loving, caring person."

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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