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SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- A jury has found Robert Petty guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and he's expected to be sentenced in April. He's the southern Indiana man accused of murdering his ex-wife and dumping her body in August of 2010.
After deliberating for five hours, the jury convicted him on three counts: voluntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and removal of a body from a scene. Jurors declined to convict on the most serious charge of murder.
Because Petty has a record of prior felony convictions, the judge could sentence him to as much as 56 years in prison.
His sentencing hearing is April 17. Petty sat quietly and showed no emotion as the judge read the verdicts in court Wednesday night.
Nina Keown's mother, Debbie Conover, said she was disappointed the jurors did not agree to the murder verdict, but she accepts the voluntary manslaughter as justice for her daughter's death. Conover said she was upset that Petty showed little emotion, especially when photos of Keown's decomposed body were shown in court.
Neither Petty nor his attorney had any comment after the verdicts were read.
Prosecutors said in closing arguments that "actions speak louder than words," that Robert Petty spoke through his actions of misleading and misdirecting police time and time again.
Petty testified Monday he had no intentions of killing Nina Keown, and admitted to applying pressure to her throat, but not enough to kill her. His attorney had argued the killing occurred in "sudden heat" after a fight over a cell phone call. The prosecutor said he had anticipated the verdict to reflect the "sudden heat" principle.
The 33-year-old showed no obvious emotion, negative or positive, throughout the trial.
Prosecutors reiterated their contention that Petty lied to police, family, and friends over and over for weeks thereafter about her whereabouts while Keown was, "deceased on a hillside in New Washington."
He told the jury he "didn't want to go to jail" several times.
Prosecutors pointed out that he had more than a half-dozen times in the past to tell the truth, so why should anyone believe him now?
The repeat felony offender said he did not want to get in trouble for violating his probation with drinking, and that's why he ditched her body and evidence in different places after he admitted he choked her for four or five seconds. Doctors testified that was just long enough to make her unconscious.
The defense argued in the past that the death of Nina Keown was not a homicide. Her body was found with several broken bones and ribs, an exposed skull, and decomposed organs.
The medical examiner said the autopsy was complicated by the condition of what was left, but doctors testified it was still a homicide.
The defense argued that Keown's body was so badly decomposed there would not be enough evidence to suggest she died from strangulation.