PORTSMOUTH — Audrey Dotson’s gaze never left the face of Scioto County Common Pleas Judge Howard H. Harcha III as he told the court that her daughter, Kara Garvin, would spend the rest of her life behind bars.
That was the decision of a 6-man, 6-woman jury who came to their verdict after almost eight hours of deliberation at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday.
That sentence came two weeks to the day after Garvin, 30, of Franklin Furnace, was convicted of shooting to death Ed, Juanita and Christina Mollett in their Snook Road trailer on Dec. 22, 2008, by the same jury.
Garvin was facing the death penalty for the murders. However the jury spared her life, sentencing her to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years for the murder of Ed Mollett and life in prison without the possibility of parole ever for the shootings of Juanita and Christina Mollett.
“As to the sentences I am extremely pleased that the jury spent seven, eight hours reviewing things we felt should be,” said Charles Knight, Garvin’s co-defense attorney after the penalty verdict was read. Knight had defended the woman along with co-counsel William Eachus. “They were measured in the sentence. It is a better option than death.”
Knight had pleaded for Garvin’s life Wednesday morning as he listed mitigating factors that should outweigh sentencing her to death.
Calling Garvin “amenable to rehabilitation,” Knight said it was the influence of one-time boyfriend Paul Balmer and the intense and escalating drug use of Garvin that brought the woman to the courtroom drama.
“Do we kill her or do we have a life sentence where rehabilitation could occur, where good things could occur,” Knight told the jury. “When not under the influence of Balmer and the drugs, she has led a law-abiding life.”
Talking with reporters after the verdict, Knight maintained the theory that he had presented to jurors in opening arguments of the first trial that the crime was the result of a takeover attempt of the oxycontin trade in Scioto County of which Ed Mollett was a part.
“As to the trial, I have misgivings about how the verdict was reached in Kara’s case,” Knight said. “There was questionable identification and no physical evidence…. There were considerable errors in the record, in the way discovery was handled and the failure of the Scioto County Sheriff to investigate the crime. The jury did their job. I can’t say the same for the prosecution.”
Assistant Prosecutor Pat Apel left the courtroom Wednesday night without talking with reporters, but had argued earlier in the day that the mitigating factors did not outweigh the enormity of the crimes.
“She earned her seat in this courtroom. She put herself in that lifestyle,” Apel told the jury. “She shot Ed. She shot Juanita. As she fired two bullets into Christina, did she not appreciate the criminality of her actions? She is firing a handgun into three people, wiping them out.”
However throughout the past 15 months, Garvin has maintained her innocence, as has her mother.
“I still don’t think she is guilty,” Dotson said before the jury came in. “I feel there is residual doubt and we need to explore that.”
During the almost three-week trial, members of both families came daily to the courthouse, often camping out on benches on the opposite sides of the second floor near Harcha’s courtroom.
Parker Mollett, father of Ed Mollett, said earlier on Wednesday that he was leaving the sentencing verdict in God’s hands and that he had been relieved when the guilty verdict came down on March 10.
“Because of our others, like the little (grandson) and other family members,” Mollett said.
Ed Mollett’s grandson was in the trailer at the time of the shootings and was the sole eyewitness to the murders. He had identified Garvin during the trial. Prosecution witnesses had testified that Garvin had told them that should she get out of jail she would harm the boy.
“I hope both sides will find peace in their hearts to forgive,” Mollett said. “It is so easy to condemn. I pray for peace.”