Twice found guilty of kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old girl only to have the convictions tossed out on appeal, Thomas Edward Maupin’s nine-year legal odyssey finally ended Thursday.
He left a Spokane County courtroom with tears in his eyes.
Instead of facing a third trial this fall for the 1988 murder of Tricna Cloy, the 47-year-old Maupin pleaded guilty to a reduced charge that makes him a free man within weeks.
The plea bargain came days after prosecutors learned one of their key witnesses - the victim’s brother - lied under oath in the previous trials.
Maupin was first convicted of first-degree murder in 1990 and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The Washington Court of Appeals reversed that conviction, ruling the jury’s verdict was flawed because it wasn’t specific enough. A second jury convicted Maupin in 1992, and the same 40-year sentence was imposed.
The state Supreme Court overturned that conviction last year, finding the trial judge erred by not allowing a defense witness to testify.
In both trials, jurors believed Maupin, an unemployed itinerant who had met the child only once, broke into the girl’s home during the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 1988, took her from her bedroom while her mother slept and later killed her.
As he left the courtroom Thursday, Maupin insisted he was innocent but had nothing else to say.
Superior Court Judge Richard Schroeder sentenced Maupin to 12 years in prison for second-degree murder. But with credit for time served and a one-third reduction for good behavior, Maupin should be free within two weeks, Deputy Prosecutor Pat Thompson said.
“This was extremely difficult for Ed to do,” defense attorney James Sheehan said later.
“I have always believed he was innocent. We felt we could win this case. But we couldn’t guarantee he’d be acquitted in the next trial,” he said.
Maupin, who met Tricna and her mother at a party the day before the girl disappeared, was arrested six months after the victim’s decomposed body was found in a Spokane quarry.
Prosecutors based their case on circumstantial evidence and testimony by neighbors of the Cloy family.
Tricna’s younger brother, Elston, testified in both trials that he woke up that morning in time to see “the Ed guy” carrying off his sister. Elston was 4 at the time.
Last week, the 14-year-old boy told prosecutors his testimony was a lie.
“During closing arguments (in the last trial), the prosecutor had called Elston’s testimony ‘the icing on the cake,”’ Sheehan said. “But we always doubted it. There were too many inconsistencies. It didn’t hold up.”
Sheehan pointed out that the boy’s eyewitness account of the abduction surfaced seven months after his sister disappeared.
In court Thursday, the defense lawyer praised Elston for “having the courage and honesty to come forward to set the record straight.”
Sheehan said Maupin plans to return to his native South when he is released from prison. His wife recently lived in Louisiana.
Tricna’s mother, Tina Fraijo, told the judge she agrees with the sentence.
“This has been physically, emotionally and mentally overwhelming to me,” she said. “I think this sentence is fair. But it’s so unfair that anybody could take away my daughter’s life this way. That’s something that will never go away.”
The prosecutor said she also looked forward to finally resolving the murder case.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” Thompson said. “I called this case an albatross around my neck.”