Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-04-17 02:54:16 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --The Rangers are the Army's most elite soldiers who are put into some of the most dangerous situations in Afghanistan. In a story you'll only see on WDRB we got a rare look atMore >>
The Army Rangers choose Fort Knox as the location to prepare for the 3rd Battalion's 20th deployment to Afghanistan.More >>
Follow the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
Tweets from the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The jury in the capital murder trial of William Clyde Gibson III returned a guilty verdict in just 17 minutes on Friday.
The sentencing phase of the trial has been set for Oct. 28.
Gibson is eligible for the death penalty.
Earlier Friday, during closing arguments, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen gave a presentation so powerful and emotional that Mike Whitis, the son of victim Christine Whitis, had to leave the courtroom. Owen tried to tear apart Gibson's claim that he killed Whitis quickly, and that he "freaked out" when Whitis refused his sexual advances. Owen walked the jury through the evidence, including some graphic photos that he said showed Gibson was, "cold, calculating, and cruel," and that he planned all along to sexually assault and kill Whitis, abuse and mutilate her corpse, then try to cover his own tracks."
In his closing, defense attorney J. Patrick Biggs was not denying that Gibson killed Whitis. He maintains that Gibson was drunk, had no sleep, and was high on marijuana -- that Gibson acted in a state of panic.
Gibson's attorney called only one witness before resting its case. That witness was a New Albany police officer who took photos of Gibson's garage after the body of Christine Whitis was removed. The defense tried to use those photos, which showed a very junky garage, to counter the arguments that Gibson planned to use a chain saw and garbage bags found near Whitis' body to eventually dispose of it.
Gibson was found guilty for the murder of Christine Whitis in April of 2012. Prosecutors say Whitis was sexually assaulted and tortured before she was strangled.
Gibson is also accused of killing 53-year-old Karen Hodella in 2002 and 35-year-old Stephanie Kirk in 2012. Kirk's body was found a week after police discovered Whitis' body. Kirk had been missing for more than a month before her body was discovered.
Gibson will face separate trials in those murders.
Gibson's attorney asked Judge Susan Orth to include voluntary manslaughter in the jury instructions. He argued that when the murder occurred, Gibson had no sleep, had smoked marijuana, and drank alcohol. The attorney said whatever happened was after Gibson had an exchange of words with Whitis, and that Gibson snapped after Whitis said, "Don't do this. Your mother is watching from heaven."
The judge denied that request, and the defense rested after one witness.
Because of pre-trial publicity, jurors for this trial were chosen from Dearborn County, Indiana, and brought to New Albany where they will remain sequestered for the duration of the trial. On Monday, one of the alternate jurors was dismissed. There's no word yet on why. That leaves 12 jurors and four alternates.
When the guilty verdict was read Friday afternoon, Whitis' family embraced one another and left, speaking briefly with WDRB.
"It's been a very rough week but our family has stood strong like we always do and we pulled through. Justice was served for our family," said Whitis' niece Pam.
Although the guilty verdict won't bring Christine Whitis back or erase the horror prosecutors believe she endured, family members say they'll rest easy knowing Gibson is behind bars.
"It's a no win but justice for our aunt," she said.