Friday, February 01, 2002

Father found guilty of murder

Young twins face life without parents

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — For a moment Thursday, two women from opposing camps in a Butler County murder case were united as grandmothers of two little girls who, in essence, lost both parents.

        The murder victim's mother, Lois Garrett, embraced the perpetrator's mother, Shirley Wilson, and said, “All I care about are those two little girls. They're what's important — and they need all of us.”

        A jury decided on Thursday that Ms. Garrett's daughter, Bambi, was murdered by Ms. Wilson's son, Steven, last June while the couple's twin daughters were at a slumber party. Judge Michael J. Sage told Mr. Wilson: “You have left those kids with a horrible legacy to live with ... their dad killed their mom.”

        The jury of eight women and four men, which had been asked to consider charges of aggravated murder, murder and reckless homicide, deliberated about four hours to find Mr. Wilson guilty of murder.

        Assistant Prosecutor Steve Tolbert called it a “very fair decision,” although he and Assistant Prosecutor Brenda Cox had argued for a conviction on aggravated murder, which carries a sentence of life without parole.

        Instead, Mr. Wilson, 29, received the mandatory sentence for murder, 15 years, plus three years because a gun was used in the crime.

        That means when he is eligible for release, his daughters, now 8, will be 26.

        “If you have a heart at all, leave them alone. Leave them alone. They're in counseling,” Ms. Garrett told Mr. Wilson during a victim-impact statement. “Steve Wilson, you have lied all your life ... I just thank God this jury saw through you.”

        Mr. Wilson, whom Judge Sage sentenced immediately after the verdict, contended that he accidentally shot his 31-year-old wife during a failed suicide attempt. Defense lawyer Noah Powers said he was disappointed by the verdict, but agreed that his client will have to decide what relationship, if any, is appropriate with his daughters.

        “What does a father do in a situation like this?” he said.

        The girls are in temporary custody of Ms. Garrett in Middletown, but were living in Trenton with their parents at the time of the slaying. It was the city's first homicide since its incorporation in 1970.


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