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Posted: March 31, 2011 7:31 p.m.

Lakemper guilty on all counts

wbrawley/

Jurors late Thursday ruled 34-year-old Cobey Wade Lakemper guilty on all counts in the 2005 death of Wendy Cartledge-Carter.

The verdict was returned about 5:50 p.m., 11 hours after they began deliberations, on the 11th day of the trial.

The victim's oldest son, Doug, looked heavenward, smiling, tears streaming down his cheeks. The rest of her family, who have been in the courtroom throughout the trial, also cried quietly as Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn read the jury's decision.

Lakemper sat quietly, much as he had throughout the trial.

He was charged with murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and theft by bringing stolen property into the state.

The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Friday. The jury will hear additional evidence from witnesses about Lakemper before deciding his punishment. They can sentence him to life without parole, life with the possibility of parole or death.

Defense attorneys earlier in the trial had noted that Lakemper never denied shooting Cartledge-Carter, but contended Lakemper was mentally ill at the time.

"Nothing that was said or done is in any way intended to minimize the horrible, tragic and unnecessary things that happened to Wendy Carter at Cobey Lakemper's hand," defense attorney Joseph Vigneris said in his closing statement on Wednesday.

"We're not saying there wasn't a murder," Vigneri said, "we're arguing about what kind of murder it was."

He also reminded the jury of Cartledge-Carter's obesity, diabetes and other alleged illnesses at the time of her shooting, saying that Lakemper "took her as he found her and that was with these medical conditions."

"There were a lot of things Mr. Lakemper could have done to ensure Mrs. Carter's death and he didn't do those," he said. "...Mr. Lakemper is most assuredly guilty, but he is also most assuredly at the time and times before that, mentally ill."

Vigneri told jurors that the case against Lakemper began long before 2005. That it had started in 1976 in Sedalia, Missouri when Lakemper was born. He reminded them that he grew up in what Vigneri called a "hostile and terrifying world," a world that shaped him to be the person he was in 2005 when the crimes were committed.

"We're not asking you to like him," he said. "We're asking you to look at the case and call it what it is... This is not a pity party for Mr. Lakemper, we're just saying that this is the evidence, now lets look at it... It's showing who the person was who started on that track... to where he's sitting right before you today, and how he got there.. You have to understand where Mr. Lakemper has been to understand where he went."

District Attorney Layla Zon asked jurors to focus on Lakemper's actions.

"When people show you who they are, believe them. It's not what people say that tells you who that person is, it's not what I say... that's just words... but what you have seen in this case is the evidence about who Cobey Lakemper is," she said.

"And he has shown you who he is... by way of his testimony, because he's shown you another side of Mr. Lakemper. He's shown you both parts of who Cobey Lakemper is... he is capable of murder... of committing two murders in North Carolina and having no remorse just a few hours later... those are all the things Cobey Lakemper is capable of. But yes," she continued, "as you saw in this courtroom he is capable of being manipulative, and cunning and charming... and it's hard, I'm sure, for you all to reconcile that. It's very hard to look at that man and say to yourself we know this guy did these things... he's the type of guy you would stand in line with at Blockbuster... that's exactly who Cobey Lakemper is. That is the essence of the antisocial personality disorder, the luring nature of Mr. Lakemper is what made him so dangerous."

Zon called Vigneri's talk of Cartledge-Carter's pre-existing medical conditions "offensive" and said that it devalued her life.

"To say that anything other than a gunshot would was her cause of death is not only incorrect but offensive," she said.

She also said that Lakemper was "consistently just evil."

Referring to a phone call the jurors heard where Lakemper was talking to his mother while in the Stokes County, N.C. jail when he likened himself to "a rabid coyote," Zon asked the jurors "was he a sick coyote or was he a sly fox?"

"It's amazing the sheer amount of crimes he committed before he was caught... All this is not somebody who is so impaired... that they're not able to have good judgment... He knew reality. He could tell you all day on the stand that he was having an out-of-body experience, but he was cutting phone lines... he is doing all sorts of things to avoid capture," she said.

"He's good at appearances, that's what a manipulator is," she said, adding, "He's had five years to go through this case file... If anyone should be able to give an Oscar-worthy performance, it's him."

He was charged with murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and theft by bringing stolen property into the state.

The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Friday. The jury will hear additional evidence from witnesses about Lakemper before deciding his punishment. They can sentence him to life without parole, life with the possibility of parole or death.

 

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