Monday, October 20, 2014

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Austin

Laura Hall sentenced to 10 years in prison

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Laura Ashley Hall was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her involvement in the murder and mutilation of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave in 2005.

After over five hours of deliberation, jurors found her guilty of hindering apprehension and sentenced her to one year on that conviction.

They also convicted her of tampering with evidence and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.

Both sentences will be served concurrently.

The news of Hall's maximum sentence was met with tears of happiness from the Cave family. Hall's parents left the courtroom upon hearing the verdict.

Before the jury entered the deliberation room, opening statements were made from the prosecution and the defense Friday morning.

State Prosecutor Chris Baugh was the first to approach the jury. He urged them to keep in mind Sharon and Jim Sedwick, Cave's mother and stepfather. Jim Sedwick discovered Cave's dismembered body in Pitonyak's apartment.

"The images Mr. and Mrs. Sedwick have of the condition of their child will always be there," Baugh said. "Mr. Sedwick will always have to live with that image."

Baugh also approached the jury with the gruesome pictures from the crime scene.

"How can you rehabilitate a person that would do this?" he said.

Hall's threats towards Sharon Sedwick were also used in Baugh's closing statements. The threats came from phone calls Hall made while in jail. The conversations were presented as evidence Thursday.

"She has threatened almost everyone in this courtroom," Baugh said. "I have no doubt I am getting added to the list, too."

Following Baugh was defense attorney Amber Elliot. Her remarks weighed heavily on the DNA research involved in the case. The study found that Hall's DNA could be excluded from the hacksaw, machete and buck knife used in the mutilation.

"We are not a system led by emotion. We turn to those things with no emotion," Elliot said. "Science we can trust, and in this case, it can actually help us."

After Elliot's statements, Hall's attorney, Joe James Sawyer, approached the jury. (Article continues after gallery)

He told the jury that the state's evidence was based on Hall's character rather than hard evidence.

"If disliking someone is enough to sentence them with a maximum number of years, then you will do so," Sawyer said.

Sawyer also tried to discredit previous witness testimony presented by the state. He told the jury that Pitonyak was the sole culprit for the murder and dismemberment of Jennifer Cave.

"His apartment was filled with images: 'Scarface,' 'Goodfellas,' 'The Sopranos,'" Sawyer said. "Those feature the most graphic scenes of dismemberment one could imagine."

Sawyer urged the jury not to make a decision based on what the Sedwicks have had to endure to cope with their daughter's death and dismemberment.

The closing statements wrapped up with remarks from State Prosecutor Allison Wetzel. She told the jury to focus on the proper punishment for Hall, not deciding the conviction. Hall's previous conviction still remains intact from her previous trial.

Wetzel also commented on Hall's character.

"Based on the track record, based on the words out of her mouth, she has not been rehabilitated yet. There is no reason to think that she is going to," Wetzel said to the jury. "I trust the 12 of you."


Click "Replay" on the chat box below to read live updates from the courtroom Thursday.

Click here to get caught up on Tuesday's proceedings.

Click here to get caught up on Wednesdays proceedings.

Click here to get up on Thursday's proceedings.

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