May 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Killer Of Black Couple Gets Life Sentence

Compiled From Wire Services

A former Army paratrooper was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison Monday in the slaying of a black couple gunned down in what prosecutors say was a skinhead initiation rite.

The jury took 1-1/2 hours to decide on the penalty for 23-year-old Malcolm Wright, one of three white soldiers from Fort Bragg charged in the case.

Wright was found guilty May 2 of murder in the deaths of Jackie Burden and Michael James, who were shot at random on a Fayetteville street.

A fellow Fort Bragg skinhead, James Burmeister, 21, was convicted as the triggerman in March and also got life in prison instead of the death penalty.

A third former soldier, Randy Meadows, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and accessory charges and agreed to testify against Wright and Burmeister. He is awaiting sentencing.

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