Now that a Smith County jury has found a Whitehouse woman guilty of capital murder, it must decide whether she will receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The punishment phase of the trial begins Monday morning for Kimberly Cargill, 45, who was convicted Friday of killing her mentally challenged babysitter in June 2010.
Jurors took about 2 1/2 hours to convict Ms. Cargill, who showed no reaction when the verdict was read. Family members of the victim, Cherry Walker, wiped tears from their eyes and hugged each other as they exited the 241st District courtroom Friday afternoon.
Rueon Walker, Ms. Walker's stepmother, said she didn't know what to say in reaction to the verdict.
“We'll accept what life allows,” she said, dabbing her tears.
Judge Jack Skeen Jr. increased the bond amount for Ms. Cargill from $1.5 million to $5 million at the request of Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.
The verdict capped two weeks of sometimes emotional testimony in the trial, which began May 7. The defendant took the stand in her own defense, saying she panicked on the night of the victim's death and tried to find help. Ms. Cargill admitted to setting the victim's body on fire on the road to cover up possible DNA evidence.
In closing arguments, Bingham called Ms. Cargill a “manipulator who put the meek voice on — she's trying to manipulate you and she's trying to control the situation.”
The most damning testimony, Bingham said, came from Angie Hardin, a fellow nurse and former friend of Ms. Cargill's.
Bingham told the jury that they needed to look at at the evidence in the case when deliberating.
“The lying is her reason and motive — that's the evidence you look at — her lies are evidence of homicidal violence,” Bingham said.
Defense attorney Brett Harrison said Ms. Cargill panicked because she thought no one would believe her. He asked the jury why, when the defendant knew that everything had been documented, a subpoena had been issued, and Ms. Walker's caregiver had been present to document the phone conversation that Ms. Cargill would kill Ms. Walker.
Jeff Haas, also on the defense team, told the jury that the homicidal violence in the indictment was circumstantial.
“If you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, then convict her,” Haas told the jury.
Smith County Assistant District Attorney April Sikes told the jury in her closing arguments that she cared about Ms. Walker and thought of her like a child.
Ms. Sikes, who cried at times during her closing arguments, said she “despised the woman who killed Cherry Walker” and told the jury that she would “give her life for a child.”
“She claims to be a good nurse who takes care of her patients — she cares them right to death,” Ms. Sikes said of the defendant.
She added that Ms. Cargill was truthful about one thing — her name.
“What you have is an opportunity to stand up for Cherry. She was not disposable, she was not trash, she had no one to come to her aid but you,” Ms. Sikes said.