NORMAN — Defense attorneys Wednesday rested their case in the punishment phase of Kevin Ray Underwood's first-degree murder trial after his mother asked the jury to spare her son's life. Connie Underwood told jurors that her son seemed to be a normal child until he started pulling away from his family after starting school. "And as the years went by, he got worse,” she said, adding that Kevin Underwood didn't like to be hugged or held and eventually acted like he did not want to be touched at all. Despite his physical distance, Connie Underwood said her son typically confided in her about his work and his feelings about girls, especially Melissa Custer, a woman in California he had met and "fallen in love” with through the Internet. When Custer canceled a meeting in California and changed her mind about entering into a mutual romantic relationship with Kevin Underwood, her son was crushed, Connie Underwood testified. Connie Underwood related a conversation she had with her son after he was arrested for the murder of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin. "He said that if he could change what happened, he would have,” she said. Defense attorney Wayne Woodyard asked Underwood's mother whether she wanted the jury to spare her son's life. "Yes,” she whispered tearfully. "Please.” Last week, a jury took less than 30 minutes to convict Underwood of the 2006 murder of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin, Underwood's upstairs neighbor at a Purcell apartment complex. This week, jurors have heard from witnesses including Underwood's parents and friends and mental health experts.
‘Struggle to be normal'Psychiatrist Martin Kafka, who interviewed Underwood after his arrest, said what struck him most about Underwood was his eloquent and sad writings in which he described a "lifelong struggle to be normal.” Kafka, an expert witness for the defense, told jurors some of the most telling glimpses into Underwood's mind came from notes scrawled in the margins of Underwood's college notebooks, when he was attempting to take notes in college classes in 1998. "I can't keep my mind on class,” Underwood wrote. "Concentrate damn you ... The computer is taking over my mind ... forcing me to change ... I don't want to ... the computer won't let me be normal ... I'm going completely insane ... I hate this. I'm in hell. I'm in hell. Shut up!” Kafka said Underwood wrote several "almost poetic” works about his perception of how other people saw him, including how he thought mothers would pull their children close as he walked by them, and whisper "my God ... I'm glad my son does not look like him ... freak ... druggie ... loser.” The thoughts were echoed in a meticulous blog Underwood maintained from September 1999 to the day of the murder of Jamie, Kafka said. "‘I really need a girlfriend. ... My fantasies are just getting weirder and weirder,'” Kafka read Underwood's MySpace blog. "‘Dangerously weird. If people knew the kinds of things I think about anymore, I'd probably be locked away.'” Kafka said that Underwood had an above average IQ of 128, but social anxiety kept him from excelling in school. The doctor also noted that one of the "saddest things” on Underwood's blog was an entry that was made the day after he killed Jamie.
‘The Missing Link'The entry was simply a link to a news story that identified the headline "The Missing Link found at last.” During cross-examination by District Attorney Greg Mashburn, Mashburn asked whether Underwood would continue to be a danger to the public. Kafka answered, "We all know that he is not well today. He has an untreated, but treatable disorder.” The doctor went on to say he thinks Underwood's disorders, including a sort of "mild schizophrenia,” bipolar disorder, pedophilia, social anxiety and depression, and the co-existing deviant sexual fetishes, could be treated with proper medication.
What's next?Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, will try to convince jurors Friday that Jamie's murder was especially heinous and cruel, and that Underwood poses a continued threat to society. Citing possible inclement weather conditions and a prosecution witness's inability to testify until Friday, McClain County District Judge Candace Blalock instructed jurors to call in at 10 a.m. today for instructions about what time to return Friday for the final witness, closing arguments and deliberation. They must choose between death by lethal injection and life in prison, either with and without the possibility of parole.
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Kevin Ray Underwood is escorted out of the courtroom Wednesday during a break in the sentencing phase of his trial in Norman. STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN