An East Texas mother now awaits her execution date for capital murder.
Thursday night, a jury recommended 45-year old Kimberly Cargill be sentenced to death by lethal injection. On May 18, Cargill was convicted of the 2010 murder of her mentally challenged babysitter, Cherry Walker. Prosecutors say Cargill dumped Walker's body and set it on fire because Walker was scheduled to testify in Cargill's child custody hearing.
After two years of preparation, four weeks of jury selection and 18 days of trial, the attorneys for both sides were finally able to comment on the case and the verdict that is intended to cut Cargill's life short.
Kimberly Cargill knows her fate. The verdict was something Cargill and her attorneys didn't want to hear, but said they wouldn't criticize either.
"A lot of decisions she has made for the last two decades have been fueled by her personality disorder. We're not trying to excuse anything she's done for the last 20 years, just put it in context," said one of Cargill's defense attorneys, Brett Harrison. Kimberly Cargill was also represented by Jeff Haas.
Throughout the trial, jurors heard Cargill's family testify to heartbreaking stories of abuse. Three of Cargill's four sons testified that Cargill would frequently choke, kick and hit them. They told jurors they often feared for their lives. Her sons testified that Cargill had the locks changed on their bedroom doors so she could lock them inside.
Cargill's ex-husbands also took the stand. A couple of those ex's told the jury Cargill would have them wrongly arrested by making up stories of assault. One of Cargill's ex-husbands testified that, though she never admitted to it, Cargill set his apartment on fire.
Cargill's sister testified that Cargill was clever and manipulative. She told jurors Cargill was, "the devil." But, when Cargill's sentence came down, Cargill's sister closed her eyes.
Cargill's mother testified that Cargill sometimes lost her temper and liked things to be her way. Cargill's mother said she once heard that Cargill wanted to kill her. Though, despite their rocky relationship, Cargill's mother clearly still loved her daughter and wanted to see the best in her.
"I've never come across another defendant like Kimberly Cargill," said Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham. Bingham says for more than 15 years he has been prosecuting people who have done horrible things to others.
"To have someone so narcissistic, someone that is so manipulative and cunning... she is the first and hopefully the last."
It's a case prosecutors say will always be close to their hearts.
"When the issues at hand are something that I have worked my whole life to try to stand up for, people who don't have a voice, then it's passionate. It's the best part of my job to speak for victims who can't speak for themselves and it has been a real honor, a real pleasure," said Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes.
The Smith County District Attorney's Office says despite everything that has happened, they feel like they're making a difference.
"She didn't get away with it. The victim and the family got as much justice as we can give them under the system. She's not going to get out and hurt any of her children again and Kimberly Cargill will hurt nobody else and that's what makes it all worth while," said Bingham.
When Cargill's verdicts were read, she stood in the courtroom emotionless. For most of the trial, Cargill silently sat next to her attorneys. She cried at least twice; once when one of her sons was on the stand and again when the State showed jurors photos of the crime scene.
Cargill did take the stand once, in the first phase of the trial, when the jury was deciding on her guilt. She testified that Walker died of a seizure, Cargill panicked, dumped her body and set it on fire to destroy evidence.
Cargill wasn't able to destroy it all. Investigators found a coffee creamer at the crime scene that had a profile matching Cargill's DNA.
Though a mechanism of death was never determined, the pathologist who conducted Walker's autopsy told the jury Walker died of homicidal violence. The pathologist said she thought she found evidence of asphyxiation, but couldn't be positive because Walker's body had already begun decomposing.
After 241st District Court Judge Jack Skeen accepted the jury's verdicts, he formally sentenced Cargill to death.
Walker's step-mother Rueon Walker took the stand and spoke to the courtroom, and then spoke to Cargill directly.
She said, "Mrs. Cargill, this is what I want you to know. Cherry loved you. She did not deserve the terrible thing you did to her."
Rueon also said she and Cherry's father, Gethry, did not hate Cargill, but did hate what she did.
"We have to accept what God has allowed. He allowed this to happen for a reason and we accept that. We don't hate you because we're not made out of hate. We only have love and pity and compassion for you," Rueon said.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says Cargill is one of two Smith County women convicted of capital murder in about the least 15 years. He says the other woman pled guilty, and he believes Cargill may be the only Smith County woman to receive the death penalty. Because Cargill received the death penalty, her case will automatically be submitted to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
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