Evans to be executed for murder of Wenda Holling
By Dwayne Bremer
Aug 24, 2013, 00:23
Convicted murderer Timothy Evans, right, remained calm Friday while the death sentence was issued.
Timothy Nelson Evans was sentenced to death Friday in Hancock County Circuit Court after he was found guilty Thursday of robbing and killing seventy-year-old Wenda Holling on Jan. 2, 2010.
In Mississippi, the death penalty is administered by lethal injection.
The last person to be sentenced to death in Hancock County was James Billiot in 1982.
"This will not bring back Mrs. Holling, but it will bring justice to her family," District Attorney Joel Smith said Friday. "It has been a tough five-day trial and there were a lot of painful moments that the family had to re-live. It was satisfying to see the relief on their face."
Evans, 56, stood silently Friday as Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson read the jury's sentencing verdict.
Evans, who did not testify during either the trial or the penalty phase, apologized to Holling's family before he was escorted out of the courtroom by deputies.
"Every day since this has happened, I have felt remorse," Evans said. "I have planned for this day. I loved her at one time and I am truly sorry."
The Mississippi Department of Corrections will take Evans into custody and he will be placed on Death Row at the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman
He will be entitled to several appeals.
His capital murder trial began Monday with more than 90 potential jurors being brought in for a lengthy selection process.
By Tuesday morning, the list was whittled down to seven women, four men, and two male alternates.
The jury was sequestered for the duration of the trial.
Both of the alternates ended up serving on the jury because two of the original jurors were excused during the trial because of family emergencies.
Confessions of a killer:
Evans gave three separate confessions to law enforcement officials and others.
Hancock County Sheriff's Investigator John Luther, the star witness for the state, testified Wednesday that he received a taped statement from Evans the day after he was arrested on Feb. 18, 2010.
The 32-minute audio tape was then played for the jury.
In the statement, Evans said he and the victim, Wenda Holling, got into an argument on the afternoon of Jan. 2, 2010 and he tried to smother her with a pillow while she was sitting in a recliner.
When that did not work, Evans said, he got on top of her and strangled her to death.
Evans said he woke up early the next morning and drove Holling's body to a wooded area in Harrison County where he dumped it and then went to the store to buy beer and cigarettes.
A month later, Evans wrote a letter from jail, clarifying details of the crime, Luther said.
"I planned it all day and I followed through with the plan," the letter said. "I have asked God for forgiveness because I know man will not forgive me."
A few months later, Evans wrote a letter to a reporter who visited him in jail to confess again.
The reporter, Donna Harris of the Sun Herald, testified that she visited Evans at the Pearl River County Jail and he appeared to show remorse for the murder.
"A lot of force"
Forensic pathologist Dr. Paul McGarry was the final witness for the state on Wednesday. McGarry testified that Wenda Holling died of strangulation.
McGarry said Holling suffered several injuries and that she was most likely strangled for several minutes before she died.
"She had extensive injuries," McGarry said. "It took a lot of force from a strong hand to strangle her."
Defense calls no
Evans chose not to testify on his own behalf and called no witnesses to the stand.
Instead, Evans' attorneys attempted to show through cross-examination of state witnesses that Evans was "highly intoxicated" before and after the murder and that he was not in a proper emotional state of mind.
"No value for
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell gave an emotional closing argument Thursday and asked the jury to consider all of the facts of the case.
"The defendant showed no value for human life," Burrell said. "Because he was drunk was no excuse. He could have taken anything from that house, but he took Mrs. Holling's life. He celebrated after he killed her. He just took a human life and he celebrated."
Wittmann said in his closing arguments that Holling's death was "a tragic set of events fueled by alcohol and drugs."
Nearly a mistrial:
It took the jury a little more than two hours Thursday to return a guilty verdict.
The jury began deliberating about 9:35 a.m. Thursday.
About 11:30, Judge Lisa Dodson was given a note from the jury saying one or more members of the jury were having difficulty following instructions from the court.
While Dodson was discussing the note with the prosecution and defense attorneys, the jury apparently agreed upon its verdict.
Defense attorney Phil Wittmann asked Dodson to declare a mistrial, but District Attorney Joel Smith objected saying since the jury reached a verdict, jurors must have worked out the issues among themselves.
The jury was called back into the room and Evans stood silently and showed no emotion while the verdict was being read.
Once the verdict was read, Dodson asked the jury foreman what the meaning of the first note was.
The foreman said that the note did not mean the jury violated any of the court's instructions regarding obtaining outside information about the case and that it was merely a disagreement about jury instructions given prior to deliberations.
Two psychologists testified during the penalty portion of the trial on behalf of Evans. Both doctors said that Evans suffered from substance abuse and emotional issues.
Dr. Robert Storer testified that he interviewed Evans twice. Storer said that while he believed Evans was being truthful, he could not verify much of the information Evans gave to him.
"I would have liked to get more information," Storer said.
Storer said he believed Evans knew right from wrong when he committed the murder.
Likewise, Dr. Paul Zimmerman said Evans suffered from some issues, but he felt more testing was needed for concrete answers.
Evans asks for mercy:
Evans' attorney Todd Thriffiley pleaded with the jury to show Evans mercy and not sentence him to death.
"We are asking each and every one of you not to kill Mr. Evans," Thriffiley said. "If you sentence him to life in prison, he will die in prison. He has held himself accountable by confessing to law enforcement and others. We are not asking you to excuse what he did. He has been remorseful."
Smith closed the trial with the state's request for the death penalty.
Burrell said Holling was a "giving and loving person" and Evans entire life has been about "hollow promises."
"He asks you for mercy, but what mercy did he show Wenda Holling," Smith said. "He wants you to feel sympathy for him. That is offensive."
It took the jury about three hours to reach its decision on the death penalty. When the jury returned, however, the jury foreman forgot the verdict in the jury room. After retrieving the verdict, Dodson instructed the jury back into the deliberation room because the verdict was not in proper form.
The jury returned a few minutes later with the verdict in proper form and it was read aloud.
"Rest in peace"
After the death penalty was announced, Holling's son, John Compton addressed the court.
Compton said that the verdict and sentence show that justice was served.
"This is the worst thing that has ever happened to our family," he said. "We have been torn apart by this. I want to thank the law enforcement officers, the prosecutors, and you judge. This shows that when you commit a crime like this, justice will be served.
Holling's daughter, Melissa Brimmer, said that nothing will ever bring back her mother.
"Though we are relieved, we find little comfort because this does not bring her back," Brimmer said. "Wenda was a mother, a sister, a grandmother, and a friend. She is dearly missed and can now rest in the peace that she deserves with the conviction of her killer. We sincerely thank all of the law enforcement officers and the investigators who built this case that resulted in Timothy Evans' capture and conviction."