McKINNEY, Texas -- A jury decided Candace Montgomery was acting in self defense when she killed the wife of a former lover with 41 ax blows, but stunned citizens screamed 'Murderer! Murderer!' at the 30-year-old housewife as she fled the courthouse under guard.
A nine-woman, three-man jury Wednesday declared the mother of two young children innocent of murder in the bizarre hacking death of friend and fellow church member Betty Gore in the small northeast Texas town of Wylie.
'As far as I'm concerned, justice will be served. She has to live with it,' said Bob Pomeroy of Norwich, Kan., the victim's father. 'I wouldn't say I was happy with the verdict. We don't know what happened and we never will know what happened.'
Pomeroy discounted Mrs. Montgomery's testimony that she was defending herself after Mrs. Gore confronted her about an affair with Mrs. Gore's husband, Alan, _ then produced an ax.
Mrs. Montgomery, whose private life included two extramarital affairs, 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 out of the Collin County courthouse under heavy guard after Ryan received a letter threatening her life.
As she was hurried to defense attorney Robert Udashen's car, mobbed by reporters, several spectators shouted: 'Murderer! Murderer!'
'How can they let a confessed murderer go free?' asked one elderly spectator.
'Now she'll be able to sleep with some other woman's husband,' another woman added.
'I was shocked and a little upset,' remarked Bobbie Friedrichs, a courtroom spectator.
'She took a life. She should pay. They'll send you to jail for stealing a 5-pound bag of sugar, but if you kill someone you get off scot free,' said a resident of nearby Lewisville who traveled to McKinney just to see the trial.
One spectator, however, wasn't surprised by the verdict, which took the jury little more than three hours to reach. Doris Howard of Denton County said she could understand the jury's thinking because the prosecution did a poor job of presenting its case.
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.'
In final arguments Wednesday, Crowder told the jury the prosecution had presented 'not one word of evidence that has refuted the testimony of self-defense.'
Drawing jurors to the moments before 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 defendant about her affair with her husband.
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.
But in his closing argument, District Attorney Tom O'Connell argued there were several times when Mrs. Montgomery could have fled the Gore home rather than bludgeon Mrs. Gore with the ax.
He also claimed Mrs. Montgomery struck Betty Gore more _ 41 times _ than was necessary to defend herself.