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Posted: April 5, 2011 7:51 p.m.

Lakemper given life sentence

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Wendy Cartledge-Carter

 Convicted murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper was sentenced to life without parole for the 2005 murder of Wendy Cartledge-Carter on Tuesday afternoon. The jury also sentenced him to life for armed robbery and 25 years to run concurrent on charges of armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and bringing stolen property into the state.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury came back with their decision, and several members cried as the verdict was read. Tuesday was the 14th day of the trial, the guilt/innocence phase lasted two weeks and Friday and Monday were dedicated to deciding the penalty Lakemper would face. The jurors elected to not give him the death penalty, although the crimes he was convicted of did make him eligible.

The day started with closing arguments. District Attorney Layla Zon called Lakemper a "little punk with a gun."

"One thing that is true and will be true years from now, is that Wendy Carter is gone forever. What the defendant did on Aug. 18, 2005 is permanent... that family will never have her again."

She urged jurors to not allow Lakemper's defense attorneys to guilt them into a verdict.

"He killed her for no reason... but what you see in that instant is he didn't care about life. He already had killed two people (William and Joyce Covington in North Carolina on Aug. 6, 2005) and that didn't have a profound enough impact on him?" she asked the jury. "They (the victims) didn't have 14 responsible members of the community to decide if they were going to die... they didn't have mercy, they had none of that... the reason you're even sitting here is he looked at those people... pulled that trigger and took their lives."

Defense attorney Joseph Vigneri asked jurors not to judge Lakemper on the "worst two weeks of his life."

"We're not trying to guilt you into anything. We're also not trying to trivialize what is going on here. The state is asking you to kill Cobey Wade Lakemper, that is the reality of what's going on here," he said. "...One thing I do know for certain is that Cobey is going to die in prison. He is going to be carried out feet first. The question is when he dies, will it be at the hand of his fellow man?"

"I'm glad justice was served but I just hate to know that he gets to watch his kids grow up," said Cartledge-Carter's husband of 21 years, Randy. "But I'm not angry. I think that Wendy can rest now."

Her middle son, Dustin, 21, said he "can finally sleep at night."

Cartledge-Carter's sister Cindy said that her sister would have forgiven Lakemper, so she felt that it was only right the close-knit family should do what her sister would have wanted.

Her youngest son, Dylan, said that knowing Lakemper will not be able to hurt anyone else's family was enough for him and said he wished his mother had been able to see his nephew, her first grandson by eldest son Doug, Mason Cole, who was born four years and one day after her death.

The family expressed thanks to the jury for their time and effort and for "feeling their hurt and pain, and said they felt the jurors had made a good decision.

"She will always be loved and she won't ever be forgotten," said her oldest son, Doug. "That's one thing that will never change."

Cartledge-Carter's father, William, wept openly when he talked about his daughter and could be seen several times throughout the trial looking heavenward and praying.

"We wanted the death penalty," he admitted. "But the court decided and we will live with it. We (he and wife Betty, Cartledge-Carter's mother) decided last night to forgive him. We have to forgive him to be able to see Wendy again... According to the Bible we can't hate the man, but we can hate what he did. But it is hard to not hate...I just thank God he won't cause someone else the pain and heartache he's caused several other people... If he got 10 life sentences it wouldn't have brought her back."

"I am grateful to the 14 jurors who took their civic duty very seriously," said Zon. "Our community owes a debt of gratitude to them for their service in a case that was both lengthy and very serious in nature. They spoke on behalf of the citizens of Newton County, and I respect their verdict. Mr. Lakemper will serve the remainder of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Justice was served today on behalf of Ms. Carter's family and to the community at large."

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