COVINGTON -- A North Carolina man who once described himself in testimony as a "sick coyote" was found guilty of malice murder and other charges in Newton County Superior Court Thursday evening.
Cobey Wade Lakemper, 34, was found guilty at about 7 p.m. Thursday. Jury deliberations began Wednesday afternoon after 10 days of testimony in what is arguably the longest murder trial in Newton County in recent memory. Today the jury of 10 women and two men will begin the next phase of the trial -- the sentencing phase -- in which they will decide whether or not Lakemper will get the death penalty.
Lakemper was charged in the shooting and robbery of Wendy Cartledge Carter, who was working as a clerk at the Comfort Inn on Aug. 18, 2005. The mother of three died of her wounds 79 days later in an Atlanta hospital where she had remained since the shooting.
Whether Lakemper pulled the trigger of the gun that shot Carter was not in question at the trial. The jury's main focus was to determine Lakemper's mental state at the time of the crime.
In closing arguments Wednesday, the defendant's attorney, Joseph Vigneri of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender, reminded jurors of testimony during trial that told of Lakemper's abusive childhood, family violence and a drunken father. Vigneri said Lakemper's background was a "doggone good foundation for somebody to turn out mentally ill."
District Attorney Layla Zon admonished jurors to keep sympathy for the defendant out of their deliberations.
In her closing argument, Zon asserted that Lakemper's actions had shown him to be anti-social rather than mentally ill. Zon said that Lakemper's actions were malicious and calculated and that he shot Carter as well as a North Carolina couple because he did not want them calling authorities.
She also reminded the jury of Lakemper's testimony, during which he said in August 2005 that he was like "a sick coyote" out in the street. Zon asked the jury to consider whether Lakemper was actually more like "a sly fox."
Lakemper is also charged in connection with the killings of an elderly North Carolina couple during a robbery 11 days before coming to Newton County.
In addition to the malice murder conviction, Lakemper was also found guilty Thursday on six other counts, including felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
For updates on this story, check the Newton Citizen Website at www.newtoncitizen.com.