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Conclusion of murder trial leaves many outraged

MCKINNEY, Texas -- The acquittal of a woman who admitted killing her former lover's wife with 41 blows of an ax left many residents stunned and angered Thursday.

The courtroom was packed for each of the eight days of the murder trial and the majority of the spectators obviously did not sympathize with the defendant, Candace Montgomery, a diminutive, 30-year-old housewife who said she killed only in self-defense.

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Mrs. Montgomery, bespectacled mother of two, said after her acquittal she hoped to block out recollections of the slaying and the trial.

'Candy is very strong,' she said of herself. 'I can make it through anything.'

After three hours of deliberation Wednesday, jurors said they believed her story of self-defense and found her innocent of murdering school teacher Betty Gore. Trial spectators, who often groaned and jeered during the defense's presentation, were skeptical.

'I think it's terrible,' said Claudia Nelson Martin. 'It's awful to think someone can do something like that and go scot-free.'

'This just makes me sick,' said another spectator.

There were jeers and shouts of 'murderer' as Mrs. Montgomery left the courtroom. Judge Tom Ryan had to request additional security for the courthouse after receiving a letter threatening Mrs. Montgomery's life.

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Jan Gifford of Dallas said she normally does not attend trials but went to the Montgomery trial because of an interest in human nature.

'I don't see how a confessed murderer can be found not guilty,' she said. 'I've been here almost the whole trial and I can't believe it. Someone forgot Betty Gore.'

The trial provided spectators _ who began arriving as early as 5 a.m. to get good seats _ with more lust and violence than a week's worth of soap operas.

Two extramarital motel love affairs, including one with the victim's husband, were detailed by Mrs. Montgomery from the witness stand. She told why and how she killed Mrs. Gore with 41 blows with a 3-foot ax.

When a reporter went to visit Mrs. Montgomery at her home after the acquittal, she opened the door holding a kitchen knife.

'Don't worry, I'm not dangerous,' she said with a smile.

Mrs. Montgomery said she remembered very little about the trial.

'I sat back in my corner,' she said. 'I just didn't listen. I blocked it so much I couldn't tell you. Having to listen was very difficult, so I didn't.'

Mrs. Montgomery's defense was that Mrs. Gore attacked her with the ax because of an affair she had had with Mrs. Gore's husband, Allan. The defense said that during the struggle for the weapon, Mrs. Gore told her to 'ssshhh,' which had childhood associations for Mrs. Montgomery and triggered her brutal attack.

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