COVINGTON — A jury of 10 women and two men fixed punishment for convicted murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper as life without the possibility of parole.
Having found him guilty late last week for the malice murder of Wendy Cartledge Carter in 2005, the jury had three possible choices of punishment for his crimes — life, life without parole and death by lethal injection.
Newton County Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn sentenced Lakemper immediately following the announcement of the jury's verdict, adding an additional life sentence plus 25 years for the remaining six counts of his indictment on the armed robbery and murder of the Comfort Inn Motel clerk.
The jury had heard closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the trial Tuesday morning from prosecutor Layla Zon and defense attorneys with the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender. The jury received instructions from the judge prior to beginning deliberations just before 2 p.m. Their decision was announced about 3:30.
Emotional testimony was heard throughout the trial, including the 911 tape when Carter called for help after she was shot. Despite being shot in the stomach with the bullet cutting through her intestines and colon, the 41-year-old mother of three did not lose consciousness and was able to identify Lakemper as her assailant. Nearly three months later, she died in an Atlanta hospital.
Although Lakemper's conviction was for his Newton County crimes, the jury heard testimony of his life of crime, beginning in Missouri where he stole a 9mm handgun used to murder Carter, as well as an elderly North Carolina couple 11 days earlier.
Zon said she was glad to see a successful conclusion to the case and said it was an important one for Newton County as well as the family of the victim.
"I extend my gratitude to the jurors for their service in a case that was very important not only to Ms. Carter's family, but also to the citizens of this county," she said after the verdict Tuesday night. "The verdict brought closure to Wendy's family and ensured that Mr. Lakemper will spend the remainder of his life in prison. I believe her parents, husband, three sons, and many other close friends and relatives were relieved just to see the day that justice was served. They are a sweet family and they have suffered over the loss of Wendy since the defendant took her life in 2005."
Zon said the case was an unusual one, requiring evidence-gathering from several jurisdictions.
"This was the longest trial that I have tried thus far," she saidd. "There were several crimes in several states to present as evidence including the double homicide of the Covingtons in North Carolina and the armed robbery in Kansas City. That made this case very unique."
In dismissing the jury, Ozburn also thanked them for their service, pointing out that in his opinion they had done "more than any person could be expected to do" as they had served since the trail began on March 7.
"I will remember this jury more than in any case I've ever had," the judge said, adding, "Saying ‘thank you' seems inadequate for what you have done."
He also acknowledged that the evidence they had to listen to probably "rocked your world," and offered to seek counseling services for them should anyone feel the need.