June 13, 2012 in Region

Court upholds murder-for-hire conviction

Jefferson Robbins Wenatchee World

(Full-size photo)

An appellate court on Tuesday turned down the appeal of Lacey K. Hirst-Pavek, convicted two years ago in the murder-for-hire of her husband’s pregnant mistress.

Hirst-Pavek, 36, was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison. She was the last of four defendants to be tried and found guilty in the murder of Michelle Kitterman, 25, who was beaten and stabbed to death on a remote road outside of Tonasket, Wash.

The March 2009 murder was carried out by a Spokane drug dealer and two subordinates Hirst-Pavek hired to kill Kitterman, who was 11 weeks pregnant. The manslaughter charge was applied to the death of the fetus.

Hirst-Pavek appealed her conviction the day after she was sentenced, claiming prosecutorial misconduct and a breach of privacy in collecting some evidence used against her at trial. She argued Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan misstated the law during his closing argument, when he told the jury it wasn’t necessary to prove intent to convict Hirst-Pavek of murder.

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled that because Hirst-Pavek was tried as an accomplice to murder, proof of intent wasn’t needed for conviction – “solely that she knew her actions would facilitate the crime of murder.”

The murder was carried out by Spokane methamphetamine dealer Tansy Mathis and two underlings, David E. Richards and Brent Phillips. Mathis and Richards were convicted of first- and second-degree murder, while Phillips pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and testified against the other three defendants.

Hirst-Pavek also said records of her employment and car rental records were unlawfully seized without warrant. The appellate court found there was no expectation of privacy for either type of record.

Finally, Hirst-Pavek’s appeal unsuccessfully argued that she should not have been convicted of manslaughter, in part because the term of “unborn quick child,” applied at trial to Kitterman’s baby, is unconstitutionally vague. The term is used to describe a fetus developed enough to move within the womb.

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