Staff and Wire Reports
A jury found Kevin Underwood guilty of first-degree murder Friday in the killing of a 10-year-old girl as part of a cannibalistic plot he said was fueled by macabre Internet pornography.
The 28-year-old former grocery stocker showed no emotion as the verdict was announced about a half-hour after jury deliberations began.
Judge Candace Blalock ordered jurors to return to court Monday morning to start the penalty phase of Underwood's trial. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.
Underwood was led away in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies once jurors had left the courtroom. Family members of the victim, Jamie Rose Bolin, patted each other and shook hands after the verdict was announced.
"You stalk our children. You attack our children, and our innocence," Jamie's grandmother Rose Fox said. "The state of Oklahoma will hunt you down like a rabid dog, and put you down like a rabid dog."
Rose Fox, the girl's grandmother, said after the verdict that she was originally against the death penalty in the case, but has now changed her mind.
"When you have a predator, human or otherwise, stalking the ones that you love and you're meant to care for, that predator needs to be taken off and he needs to be put down," she said.
Jurors began deliberating shortly after 10 a.m. following closing arguments in which Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn predicted it would take jurors longer to pick a foreman than to determine Underwood's guilt.
"It's the worst of the worst," Mashburn said. "His plan is to butcher someone like an animal."
In his closing argument, Defense attorney Matthew Haire did not dispute Underwood's guilt. He has said the defense will focus on trying to prevent Underwood from receiving a death penalty.
"He was a lonely, very troubled, reclusive young man," Haire said. "There's something terribly wrong here."
Haire accused prosecutors of overwhelming jurors with gruesome evidence. Evidence included multiple photographs of the victim and a cutting board that prosecutors said Underwood used to strike the victim on the head and back.
"We know what happened in this case," Haire said. "We know it through the words of Mr. Underwood. Isn't that bad enough?"
Underwood's videotaped confession was played in open court Thursday.
In the confession, Underwood said he lured the girl, his upstairs neighbor, into his apartment, hit her with the cutting board, smothered her with his hands, sexually assaulted the body and nearly cut her head off as part of a fantasy involving cannibalism.
Underwood, 28, told police the killing was fueled by bizarre Internet pornography. He said his plan was to kill and eat his victim.
"It started off as cannibalism ... I wanted to know what it tasted like, and just the thought of eating someone was appealing to me," Underwood said in the videotaped confession, which came in an interview with FBI agents.
Underwood also said his fantasies involving cannibalism began about the time he started taking the antidepressant Lexapro. Defense attorneys plan to call witnesses during the penalty phase of the trial who will testify that Underwood often appeared detached from reality and was using the drug.
Curtis Bolin, the slain girl's father, testified that he had warned his daughter not to go into strangers' apartments after she told him she had met Underwood and knew that he had a pet rat. Underwood used the rat to lure the girl into his apartment.
The girl's body was found in a plastic tub in Underwood's apartment after he raised suspicions at a traffic checkpoint.
Family members said it will be hard to forget the gruesome details of this week's testimony.
"It was so horrific," Jamie's uncle Mark Chiles said. "I have a memory of my niece and that's what I want to keep. I just don't want to hear those things."