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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Killer given life sentence in retrial for ’83 slayings

Associated Press

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho – A man who killed two people in 1983 has been sentenced to life in prison.

Second District Judge John H. Bradbury sentenced Mark Lankford on Thursday to two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole.

“The pain is racking the hearts and souls of the survivors,” Bradbury said. “To take two beautiful lives and to eliminate them for their car and credit cards is beyond the pale.”

An Idaho County jury convicted the 51-year-old Lankford in February of two counts of first-degree murder in the beating deaths of 27-year-old U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence, and his 24-year-old wife, Cheryl Bravence.

Lankford and his younger brother, Bryan, originally were convicted for the killings in 1984 and each sentenced to death. Bryan Lankford’s sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

Mark Lankford, who spent more than two decades on death row, was granted a new trial early last year after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he must be retried or released because of a jury instruction error from the 1984 trial.

Even though Mark Lankford is now off death row, he said he would file another appeal to have the conviction overturned, saying his brother did the killings.

“I had no idea that Bryan, in my wildest imagination, would kill two people,” he said. “This is a travesty of justice. I was guilty of accessory after the fact. There are absolutely no winners in this series of events.”

But Bradbury said he didn’t believe Mark Lankford’s story that he only learned of the Bravences’ deaths some time after they had already been killed, adding that his actions of helping to hide the bodies and then stealing the couple’s van and money “shows a singular disregard for the rights of others. It was callous at best.”

Linda Lehto, Cheryl Bravence’s mother, was in tears following the hearing, the Lewiston Tribune reported. “I’m just so happy the judge put him away for life,” she said.

Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk A. MacGregor said he was happy for the victims that Lankford received two life sentences. “I think that justice was served, without a doubt, and (I’m) just so glad it’s over,” he said.