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Judge affirms Underwood's fate

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Associated Press

PURCELL, Okla. - A former grocery store stocker was formally sentenced to death Thursday for killing his 10-year-old neighbor during a cannibalistic fantasy.

McClain County District Judge Candace Blalock approved the death sentence recommended by the jury that convicted Kevin Ray Underwood of first-degree murder last month for the death of his neighbor Jamie Rose Bolin.

Underwood, 28, showed no emotion when the judge handed down the sentence and declined an opportunity to address the court. Underwood's father, Larry Underwood, hung his head after the judge read the sentence, but did not talk to reporters after the hearing.

Blalock set the execution date for June 13, although that date is a formality since an appeal is automatic in a death penalty case. Underwood's attorney, Matthew Haire, said he planned to file a notice of intent to appeal in Cleveland County, where the trial was held because of intense pre-trial publicity in Purcell, a small town about 35 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Linda Chiles, the slain girl's aunt, said the family is prepared for a lengthy appeals process.

"We know that's going to happen, but this does create a lot of closure for us that we don't have to come back for trial and don't have to sit in the courtroom with him," Chiles said.

Chiles said the pain of Jamie's loss still has a profound affect on the family, especially with the second anniversary of the girl's death just days away.

"I think about her all the time, and I'm sure everybody else does," Chiles said. "We all talk about her and joke about the cute things she used to do.

"It's not something you ever get over. You just learn to deal with it."

District Attorney Greg Mashburn said it was a difficult one for him and his staff, which had an entire conference room in his office dedicated to the case. He said evidence presented at trial, including crime scene photographs and items seized from Underwood's apartment, like sex toys, weapons and items used in the assault, can now be moved from his office.

"I don't have to stare at that disgusting stuff that jurors had to look at," Mashburn said. "It was a particularly troubling case to sit through."

One of the jurors in the case, Jeffery Baldwin, attended Thursday's hearing in Purcell, but declined to comment to reporters afterward.

During the trial, prosecutors played a videotaped confession in which Underwood told investigators he lured the girl into his Purcell apartment on April 12, 2006, beat her over the head with a cutting board, suffocated her, sexually assaulted her and then tried to cut off her head with a decorative dagger.

Underwood told authorities he was fueled by sexual fantasies that involved torturing, raping, killing and eating his victim, although no evidence was presented that he cannibalized the girl's body.

Underwood's attorneys did not dispute that he killed the girl, and it took jurors less than an hour to find him guilty. His attorneys argued, however, that Underwood's life should be spared because he suffered from mental illness that could be helped with medication.

Defense attorneys also said Underwood was bullied as a child and suffered emotional and verbal abuse from his parents.

Jamie lived with her father in an apartment upstairs from Underwood, and her disappearance prompted a statewide search.

Underwood raised suspicions at a police checkpoint. He allowed police to search his apartment, where they discovered the child's nude body stuffed inside a plastic tub in a bedroom closet.

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