Death Penalty Sought for Murder of Devvra Keyes

Started by JeffB, April 27, 2011, 04:10:07 PM

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Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:14 PM CDT
Larson, Sappington charged in Devvra Keyes homicide

Jonathon Shacat /Wick Communications

The Cochise County Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against two men who allegedly participated in the murder of a woman in Benson last year.

Jarod Michael Larson, 23, and Robert Eugene Sappington, 37, are charged with first-degree murder of Devvra Alesya Keyes and abandonment or concealment of her dead body on Sept. 7.

On Monday, James Glanville, deputy county attorney, filed notices of intent to seek the death penalty against both defendants based on alleged aggravating circumstances, including:

•The defendants committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value.

•The defendants committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

•The defendants committed the offense to prevent a person's cooperation with an official law enforcement investigation, to prevent a person's testimony in a court proceeding, in retaliation for a person's cooperation with an official law enforcement investigation or in retaliation for a person's testimony in a court proceeding.

•The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification.

Also, the documents allege that Sappington was previously convicted of a serious offense, and that Larson procured the commission of the offense by payment, or promise of payment, of anything of pecuniary value.

According to a probable cause statement, the victim's body was found in February at the bottom of a sewer system manhole off of El Paso Lane near Ocotillo Road in Benson.

Larson allegedly used Keyes' debit card just prior to her disappearance in September, and he intended to scare her because he was worried that she would report him to the police.

According to the document, Larson and Sappington traveled to Keyes' apartment, and she entered Larson's vehicle. At one point, one of the defendants cut her throat three times. Later on, one of them removed the manhole cover and the other dumped her body in the manhole, according to the document.

The most recent death penalty case in Cochise County involved Kyle David Sharp, according to Doyle Johnstun, chief deputy county attorney. Sharp, 38, killed Judith Coughlin, 50, on July 1, 1995. On April 7, 1997, he was sentenced to death for murder and to prison for kidnapping and sexual assault counts. But he is pending a new sentencing. Last July, Division 3 Judge Wallace Hoggatt ordered the setting of a jury trial for his punishment, citing deficiencies of sentencing counsel that caused the judge to not be informed of mitigating evidence. County Administrator Michael Ortega told the Herald/Review on Monday that he anticipates the cases against Larson and Sappington could cost a total of about $2 million.

In a different case, Larson was one of the alleged victims of a shooting outside the Pomerene post office on Sept. 15, about a week after the murder of Keyes. Robert Joseph Catano, Jeremy Burkholder and Chrystal Marie McBroom were charged. But, the County Attorney's Office filed a motion to dismiss their cases on Friday. Larson's vehicle is material evidence in the post office shooting as well as the killing of Keyes.

"The court has ordered that defense counsel for Robert Catano may inspect the vehicle, which is still being processed as part of Ms. Keyes' murder investigation. Defense handling of the vehicle in the instant case has the potential to compromise its integrity as evidence in the murder case," states the motion.


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