Cynthia Arrasmith cried and grasped her sister Wednesday when a jury found her father guilty of murdering the couple who sexually had abused her.
Ken Arrasmith, a 44-year-old trucker from Clarkston, Wash., shot Ron and Luella Bingham 29 times May 17 at an auto shop in east Lewiston, after learning the couple had abused his daughter.
Arrasmith claimed self-defense. After about 10 hours of debate, the jury decided otherwise. Its vote capped a trial that attracted international attention because of the vigilante justice meted out to the Binghams.
Arrasmith, whose action orphaned 16-year-old Josh Bingham, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26. His lawyers then plan to appeal the decision.
“Well, I hope he dies,” said Rilla Smith, Luella Bingham’s mother. “He’s destroyed Josh’s family, made an orphan of him.”
Nez Perce County Prosecutor Denise Rosen said after the verdict she does not plan to seek the death penalty.
A courtroom packed with friends, relatives and media listened when the verdict was read at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Arrasmith was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Luella Bingham, shot six times in the back as she ran from him. First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or death.
He was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Ron Bingham, shot 23 times with a semiautomatic weapon as he worked underneath a pickup. Second-degree murder is punishable by 10 years to life in prison.
During the trial, which lasted slightly more than two weeks, Arrasmith’s public image as a model father concerned for his family crumbled into one of a methamphetamine-snorting, deadbeat dad.
On Wednesday, Arrasmith wore a blue pin-striped suit to court and blew a kiss toward his family.
Cynthia Arrasmith nodded her head vigorously. Arrasmith’s wife, Donita Weddle, clasped her hands together and whispered, “Oh God.”
When the verdict was read, Arrasmith’s stony expression didn’t change.
“He didn’t move or jerk or utter a sound, and I was sitting next to him,” said lawyer Roy Mosman, who with his son Craig defended the killer.
Cynthia Arrasmith, 16, folded on the front bench. Her sister and Weddle collapsed onto her. All three cried.
Judge Ida Leggett ordered the courtroom to clear. Some spectators had trouble walking, they were crying so hard.
“Why? Why?” they said, punctuating their cries by pounding fists on shoulders and backs.
Arrasmith’s family left quickly, mostly in cars and trucks bearing Arrasmith defense-fund bumper stickers stating: “Protect Our Children.” They stumbled out the door. They held each other. They cried, “No, no.”
Cynthia Arrasmith’s mother pursed her lips together. “I can’t talk right now,” she said, voice shaking. “I’m sorry.”
Earlier, supporters were optimistic, waiting at the bottom of the stairs in the courthouse, drinking coffee and hoping for good news. Arrasmith called his family on a cellular telephone.
“Dad wants peanut butter M&Ms;,” Cynthia Arrasmith yelled.
The Binghams’ supporters were fewer in number. They showed up only for the verdict, avoiding the waiting game in the lobby. On one bench, Smith sat next to her sister and several family friends. They held hands and their breath before the verdict.
“I’m overjoyed,” said Deena Holly, who said she was Luella Bingham’s best friend. “I feel sorry for the hell the Arrasmith family’s going to be going through. They’ve got their own hell now.”
That hell’s been around for quite a while.
Cynthia Arrasmith lived with the Binghams for about two months. She was sodomized, raped and drugged. When Ken Arrasmith learned of the abuse in early May, he drove over from central Washington and reported the abuse to the Asotin County Sheriff.
Nothing was immediately done, so Arrasmith, a former Asotin County sheriff’s deputy, started investigating.
About 10 days after finding out about his daughter’s abuse, he drove to an east Lewiston auto shop, supposedly to gather more evidence from the Binghams. Arrasmith said he shot them in self-defense.
At least 17 people have come forward since the shooting to say they also were abused by the Binghams.
Arrasmith’s lawyers are hoping an expert witness not allowed in the trial will be allowed to testify about Arrasmith’s state of mind at his sentencing hearing.
Denver psychologist Lenore Walker has the reputation as the nation’s top expert on spousal abuse. She’s expected to testify that Arrasmith acted in the heat of passion.
“I’m depressed,” Roy Mosman said after the trial. “You hope for the best, and it didn’t happen.”