NORMAN — A jury of seven men and five women decided on the death penalty late Friday after deliberating for more than eight hours in the punishment phase of the first-degree murder trial of Kevin Ray Underwood.
A week earlier, the same jury convicted him of first-degree murder in the April 2006 death of Jamie Rose Bolin. FBI agents found the girl's body stuffed in a plastic tub in Underwood's bedroom closet. And in court last week, the jury heard a taped confession in which Underwood admitted he hit her over the head with a cutting board, smothered her and tried to rape her, and nearly cut off her head. For Jamie's family, the sentence was "justice.” "It's been frustrating,” said Linda Chiles, Jamie's aunt. "... just waiting ... not being able to get it going and then waiting for this verdict.” Jamie's father, Curtis Bolin, was too emotional to talk, but several other family members expressed their thanks to everyone who helped bring the closure they have longed for. "Now we have justice,” uncle Mark Chiles said. "I take no pleasure in his death, but it was the only just punishment for this crime. Now we can go on with our lives and try to remember the good times.” Mark Chiles went on to say the family doesn't hold Underwood's family responsible. "They are as much a victim as we are,” he said. Earlier, jurors, who have been sitting in the Cleveland County courtroom for two weeks, asked the court if giving Underwood life without parole would mean he would die in prison. The court sent back an answer saying that life without parole meant no parole ever. Jurors were asked by defense attorneys to weigh the brutal manner in which Underwood killed Jamie against "mitigating circumstances,” referring to testimony about Underwood's multiple personality and mental disorders. "Do not lose sight of what he did,” Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell told jurors during closing arguments.