Friday, April 8, 2011

Jurors find trio guilty in Ft. Hood murder-for-hire case

Belton – A 7-woman, 5-man jury found three co-defendants guilty of murdering an Army sergeant for $100,000 in group life insurance benefits after 6 hours of deliberation.

Convicted mastermind Kathryn “Katie” Briggs, 28, posed variously as Marisa Miller, a famous swimsuit model, and as Arianna Benitez, a fictitious girlfriend of Staff Sergeant John Valdez, believed to be the knife-wielding assailant who picked up the “contract” on Sgt. Ryan Sullivan, a Bronze Star recipient who died violently from some 35 stab and incisive wounds during the Columbus Day weekend in October, 2008.

A third conspirator, Kyle Moesch, told a former room mate, Corporal Jeremy Jacobs, who was then sharing an apartment with Sgt. Valdez, that Sgt. Sullivan had been murdered after frantically washing blood from his hands and showing him drops of Sullivan's blood on his jeans.

Jurors heard Cpl. Jacobs and his wife testify that they told no one about the planned murder and did not come forward after because they were in mortal fear for their lives.

An array of witnesses related how Ms. Briggs collected the $100,000 in life insurance benefits from Prudential, set up an account in a central Texas bank, and doled out the money to Sgt. Valdez a few thousand at a time.

In the end, defense counsel made no case and merely asked the jurors to dismiss the charges against their clients. All three complained and objected bitterly during the testimony phase of the case because, as Mr. Valdez' attorney Bucky Harris said, much of the testimony related by witnesses was quoted from what other persons not present in court had to say. He called it “hearsay within hearsay within hearsay.”

Mr. Harris has promised to file an appeal on the hearsay and 6th Amendment issues of not allowing the defendants to confront the witnesses against them.

State District Judge Martha Trudo overruled his objections and those entered by Ms. Briggs' attorneys Jack Holmes and David Fernandez, as well as those made by Steve Blythe, attorney for Kyle Moesch. She refused to sever the three cases from one another, another point likely to be appealed to higher courts for review.

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