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Garvin found guilty of triple murder

PORTSMOUTH — Kara Garvin may become the second woman on Ohio’s death row, after a 6-man, 6-woman jury convicted her of aggravated murder in the deaths of a Franklin Furnace family.

By 7 p.m. Wednesday the jury told Scioto County Common Pleas Judge Howard H. Harcha III that they had reached a verdict after about 20 hours of deliberations over two days.

By 7:30 p.m. the courtroom knew that they had convicted the 30-year-old mother of shooting to death Ed and Juanita Mollett and their daughter, Christina, in their Franklin Furnace trailer on Dec. 22, 2008. The jury did not convict her of performing the acts with prior calculation or premeditation.

Mollett family members and supporters filled the back two rows of the gallery. In the front row were Garvin’s mother, sister and aunts who held hands just before the guilty verdicts were read. Garvin faced 15 counts including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary with a firearm specification.

Now that she had been found guilty that means she may be sentenced to die for the crimes. However, the jury may also decide to sentenced her to life in prison; life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years or after 25 years.

That will be determined in a second trial to determine the penalty. The same panel that stood in judgment of Garvin on the murders will also decide her sentence.

A few cries of relief came from the Mollett family when the verdict was read, while Garvin’s family quietly cried and shook their heads.

As the gallery filed out of the courtroom, Garvin’s mother, Audrey Dotson, shook her head declining to make a comment. Outside the courtroom Marcella Noe, sister to Juanita Mollett, spoke to reporters, saying she was “very relieved” with the verdict.

She called the past 14 months a horror and that she had been worried that Garvin would get off and harm the Molletts’ grandson.

The young boy was the only eyewitness to the murders. The child, then 6, was in the trailer at the time of the shootings. He testified for the prosecution, identifying Garvin as the shooter. However at the time of the murders the boy told a 911 dispatcher that he could not identify the woman who murdered his family.

Five sheriff’s deputies flanked the spectator section of the courtroom as the verdicts were read by Harcha. Later Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini spoke about the verdicts and the murders.

“We are only half way done,” he said. “It is unfortunate this occurred — the murders …this poor young woman, her life could very well be over, as well as the little boy who witnessed this.”

Throughout the five-day trial jurors heard more than 30 hours of testimony, primarily from prosecution witnesses, including Paul Balmer, Garvin’s one-time boyfriend, and James Damron, a neighbor to the Molletts.

Balmer, now serving a 17-year sentence for the attempted murder of another member of the Mollett family, placed Garvin at the murder scene.

He said that he had driven the two of them to the trailer that evening and

that Garvin had gone in by herself. He denied knowing what transpired during that visit.

Damron also testified that he saw Garvin that evening at the Molletts’ home. However, he said Garvin had been driving the car down from the trailer.

That testimony, plus the fact that Garvin owned the murder weapon and that gun residue was on the clothing that she was reportedly wearing, may have been factors that lead the jury to come up with the guilty verdicts.

Garvin appeared quiet and calm when the verdicts were read, but her voice broke twice when Harcha asked her if she wanted a presentencing investigation or a mental health evaluation before the penalty phase of the proceedings begin.

She declined both.

That second trial will begin on Tuesday, March 23, also in Harcha’s courtroom.