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Jury must decide fate of convicted murderer

PORTSMOUTH — The drug use of convicted murderer Kara Garvin started in her teen years and escalated to a high pitch about two months before the murders of Ed, Juanita and Christina Mollett.

That was the testimony of defense witnesses Tuesday in front of a jury that must decide if Garvin is to be executed for those crimes.

Garvin, 30, of Franklin Furnace, was convicted on March 10 of shooting the trio to death in their home on Snook Road, also in Franklin Furnace, on Dec. 22, 2008, and of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, when a wallet belonging to Ed Mollett was taken.

It was October of 2008 that Garvin began a relationship with Paul Balmer, the one-time boyfriend who testified against her earlier this month. Balmer is currently serving a 17-year sentence for the attempted murder of another member of the Mollett family.

“I saw the effect. I saw how it was affecting her,” Andrea Webb, Garvin’s older sister and sole sibling, testified Tuesday in Scioto County Common Pleas Court. “The drug use was worse than I had ever seen it. It was out of control. I wanted to take her out of the relationship. I saw what it was doing to her. She wasn’t the same person.”

The young mother of a 12-year-old daughter could also be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, life without parole for 30 years or life without parole for 25 years.

Webb was among four witnesses who testified for the defense in an effort to spare the woman’s life.

In his opening statement Charles Knight, a co-counsel for the defense, said Garvin should not be sentenced to die for “a robbery of a wallet and 30 seconds of violence that occurred there.”

The defense is seeking life with parole in 25 years.

Garvin, Balmer and the Molletts had a relationship that revolved around the buying and selling of Oxycontin, a prescription pain medication both Garvin and Balmer used intravenously on a regular basis.

“There will be some arguments on a touchy subject on whether the victim facilitated the offense,” Knight told the six-man, six-woman jury.

Despite her conviction Garvin maintains her innocence saying she was not there at the time of the murders, her attorney said.

“Did the victim by his participating in drug dealing …did that get the victim in that situation,” the attorney asked.

Assistant prosecutor Pat Apel explained to the jury that the murders alone do not lead to the death penalty. But rather the jury must decided if aggravating circumstances are sufficient to execute Garvin.

“This isn’t a pleasant job for any of us,” Apel said. “It is a very sobering job. It is one of those things we can’t turn our backs on and go the other way. … If you arrive at that point, the law doesn’t give you much choice.”

Much of Tuesday’s testimony was emotional as Garvin’s parents testified on her behalf detailing the breakup of their marriage when the defendant was 8 years old and how that affected her behavior as an adult.

Ralph Garvin said the drug use of his daughter was distressing, but that in the 15 months that she has been in the county jail, he has seen a transformation in the woman.

“I didn’t like the lifestyle she’d let herself into,” the father said. “I see a completely different young lady than who I was used to before. She is not blaming me about her life. Honestly I love to watch her with (her daughter) and Andie, except for the glass (barrier at the jail) and the situation. This is the best, healthiest I have seen her in I don’t know how long.”

At which point Garvin broke down into sobs.

Audrey Dotson, Garvin’s mother, also testified to the negative influence she said Balmer had on her daughter.

“I didn’t know what kind of hold he had on her. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but all I wanted to do was to save my daughter,” Dotson said. “I saw her become a different person when she started with Paul Balmer.”

Dotson also said she has seen a change in her daughter since her arrest on Dec. 23, 2008.

“She is my Kara again. She has adapted well,” Dotson said. “She has accepted it and made the best out of it.”

The last defense witness was Columbus-based psychologist Jeffrey Smalldon, who interviewed Garvin on four occasions starting in April 2009. In his career Smalldon has been a consultant in 250 death penalty cases.

He described her as self-deprecating with damaged self-esteem that led to her drug abuse.

In the year of the murders “she was using massive amounts of Oxycontin … 300 milligrams at a time,” Smalldon testified.

He diagnosed Garvin as suffering from recurring and chronic depression and a borderline personality disorder.

“There is an underlying chronic depression. In Kara’s case it has been present for many years,” Smalldon said.

However, the psychologist said he saw no signs that Garvin has shown violent tendencies in the county jail or that she would do so in prison.

Closing arguments began at 9 a.m. today with the jury getting the penalty portion of the case by mid-morning. The prosecution did not present any witnesses.