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A churchgoing housewife whose private life included two extramarital...

McKINNEY, Texas -- A churchgoing housewife whose private life included two extramarital affairs was found innocent of murder Wednesday by a jury that decided she was acting in self defense when she hacked her former lover's wife to death with an ax.

The nine-woman, three-man jury acquitted Candace Montgomery, 30, following just over three hours of deliberation. She was charged in the death of friend and fellow church member Betty Gore, who succumbed to 41 blows of an ax.

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Mrs. Montgomery, mother of two young children, showed no emotion when the verdict was read by District Judge Tom Ryan. She fought back tears, however, as she and her husband, Pat, were whisked quickly out of the Collin County courthouse under heavy security invoked because of death threats against the defendant.

As she was hurried to defense attorney Robert Udashen's car, mobbed by reporters, several spectators shouted, 'Murderer!'

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'How can they let a confessed murderer go free?' one gray-haired woman asked.

'Now she'll be able to sleep with some other woman's husband,' another woman added, referring to the affairs Mrs. Montgomery admitted having.

In the commotion following the verdict, prosecutors and jurors quickly slipped out of the courthouse without comment. Allan Gore, husband of the slain victim and Mrs. Montgomery's former lover, also declined comment.

Defense attorney Don Crowder, who faces a four-day jail term after being cited twice last week for contempt of court, said, 'We're just very pleased, very pleased. We're proud the jury had enough courage to stand up.'

Crowder added, 'I'm not going to tell you we never had any doubts.'

In his final arguments Wednesday morning, Crowder told the jury that the prosecution has presented 'not one word of evidence that has refuted the testimony of self-defense.'

He reminded jurors of the witnesses who testified that Mrs. Montgomery had a reputation for being a 'peaceable, law-abiding citizen.'

'A reputauion is something achieved over a lifetime,' Crowder said. 'People who for 30 years have a reputation as a peacable, law-abiding citizen do not go out and commit violence without there being some provocation.'

Drawing jurors attention to the moments leading up to the killing of Mrs. Gore, Crowder repeated Mrs. Montgomery's testimony _ supported by a polygraph exam _ that Mrs. Gore first produced the ax after confronting the defendent about her affair with her husband.

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Crowder said Mrs. Montgomery had to defend herself with deadly force when, after being struck twice with the ax by Mrs. Gore and then gaining control of the weapon, the heavier and larger Mrs. Gore refused to let Mrs. Montgomery go.

'Mrs. Montgomery dropped th ax and tried to run, but there was no avenue of escape,' Crowder said.

District Attorney Tom O'Connell argued there were several times when Mrs. Montgomery could have fled the Gore home rather than hit Mrs. Gore with the ax.

Texas law says a person may use deadly force in order to repel a deadly attack, but only if 'a reasonable person ... would not have retreated.'

Noting the polygraph operator's testimony that Mrs. Montgomery said she was 'genuinely afraid' of the ax, O'Connell said, 'If she was afraid of the ax, she should have run.'

He also claimed Mrs. Montgomery struck Betty Gore more times than was necessary to defend herself. The coroner who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Gore had said the victim was struck at least 41 times.

'Betty Gore, at some point in time, was rendered incapable of fighting back, and at that point the right of self-defense was no longer necessary,' O'Connell said. 'You're not going to swing an ax 41 times and not know what you're doing.

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