As 19-year-old Kevin Boot stood blankfaced before the judge Sunday, learning he would spend the rest of his life in prison, a man in the jury box cried.
“He is a young boy,” the juror said afterward. “Our decision just changed his life forever.”
The Spokane County Superior Court jury deliberated 10 hours over two days before finding Boot guilty of first-degree aggravated murder in the December 1994 slaying of Felicia Reese.
Jurors didn’t believe Boot’s testimony that it was his younger cousin Jerry Boot who shot Reese after they had kidnapped her from a downtown hotel parking lot.
The six-woman, six-man panel was convinced Kevin Boot shared responsibility for Reese’s murder. The 22-year-old Spokane woman was shot three times in the face.
Aggravated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Prosecutors couldn’t seek the death penalty because Kevin Boot was a juvenile when the crime occurred.
Several members of Reese’s family started crying when Judge Tari Eitzen announced the verdict shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday.
Ken Whitehall, Reese’s fiance, threw his head back and sobbed. He whispered, “Thank you, God,” over and over.
One juror said much of the deliberations centered on who had killed Reese: Kevin, Jerry or both.
“There was a lot of conflicting testimony,” said the juror, who didn’t want her name used. “He told his friends he killed her, but he told us he never said that. In the end, after going over everything, we just didn’t - couldn’t - believe him.”
She said she plans to closely follow Jerry Boot’s trial, which is scheduled to start next month. Several jurors, including herself, believe he may have shot Reese too.
“They acted together,” she said.
Kevin Boot’s grandfather said he doesn’t believe that for a minute. Jerry Boot, younger but bigger than Kevin Boot, was always the leader of the two, he said.
“Kevin was afraid of him,” said his grandfather, also named Jerry Boot. “They’ll find out when the next trial comes that Kevin was not the shooter. There is no justice here today.”
Prosecutor Jim Sweetser, however, said the verdict proves the jury system works.
“They paid very close attention to the evidence,” Sweetser said. “They came back with the appropriate verdict.”
Defense attorney Richard Fasy, who was ill, was not present in court when the verdict was announced. He could not be reached for comment.
Whitehall said hearing the judge say “guilty” overwhelmed him with relief. Crying, he hugged Sweetser, deputy prosecutor Jack Driscoll and a sheriff’s detective who worked on the case, thanking them repeatedly.
“I just can’t believe it’s over,” said Whitehall, who was planning a summer wedding with Reese when she was killed. “This year has been so hard and so painful and now I can finally have part of it behind me.”
Reese’s mother, Maggie Bucher, said she is relieved Kevin Boot will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“He’s not going to be able to hurt anybody else now,” Bucher said. “Felicia can have some peace.”
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