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Jury deadlocks on execution for woman who killed parents

Author(s): AP Date: January 23, 1997 Section: wire

FRANKL1NTON – A jury that convicted Shanda Crain in the first-degree murder of her parents deadlocked Wednesday on the question of whether she should be put to death. That meant Crain will spend the rest of her life in prison, barring a successful appeal of her conviction.

She could have been sentenced to death by lethal injection, but that would have required a unanimous vote by the jury.

Crain showed no emotion after being convicted Tuesday in the Jan. 25, 1995, murders of Landor Spears Sr., 58, and Bobbie Spears, 51, in their rural Washington Parish home.

Prosecutors said Crain committed the murders to get access to money to pay debts she ran up as a result of her video poker habit.

The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated 4 1/2 hours before returning a guilty verdict. Jurors deliberated for three hours before reporting they were deadlocked on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Thomas Damico said the case will be appealed, but his immediate goal was to make sure Crain, a mother of three, was not sentenced to death.

Crain confessed to the killings but later recanted. In closing arguments on Tuesday, Damico said she bad no motive to kill her parents.

“The state would like you to think she killed her parents because she needed money,” Damico said. “Yet, her parents gave her whatever she wanted.

“The state would like you to believe she had a gambling problem, “Damico said. “Yet, she and her mother played these supposedly sinister video poker machines side-by-side” at the country bar Crain’s father owned and operated near his dairy farm in the Warnerton community.

Damico said the slain couple had a $300,000 life insurance policy, but Crain stood to receive only $50,000 as a beneficiary because the remainder was allocated to the couple’s estate and their two sons.

“It is ridiculous to think Shanda Crain killed her parents for $50,000,” Damico said.

Prosecutor Lewis Murray III said it was plausible.

“She was taking money that her (then) husband Brent Crain had given her to pay bills and blowing it in the poker machines,” Murray said. “And then, she was stealing money from her mom and dad to repay it.”

Copyright 1997 Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.