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. "He killed a 10-year-old child, and everyone's telling us he'd do it again if he could.” Caswell said that in a desperate attempt to save their client's life, defense attorneys mentioned facts, including: •The teasing Underwood took as a child. •He has family and friends who love him. •That he wouldn't be around children in prison. Those factors combined can't compare to the continuing danger Underwood poses and the heinous, atrocious and cruel nature of the crime, she argued. Through the trial, his attorneys never disputed he killed the girl, but their argument was that he was a "disturbed and troubled” man who suffered from several mental illnesses. He said the state's reason for imposing the death penalty — retribution — "sounds a lot like revenge.” District Attorney Greg Mashburn reminded jurors of their previous pledge to be able to consider the death penalty and added that there was no better place to apply it than this case. He said he did not blame defense attorneys for trying what he called desperate measures. Mashburn agued that some might think life without parole would be a better punishment, because the convicted killer would have to sit there and think about what he did. But for Underwood, Mashburn said, those thoughts only fuel his twisted fantasies. "The only way to stop Jamie Bolin from being repeatedly raped, abused and molested in his mind is to turn it off,” the district attorney told jurors. Jamie's family waited anxiously for a verdict through the evening. They all wore red and green ribbons representing Jamie's middle name and her favorite color.
Larry Underwood, father of Kevin Ray Underwood, on Friday. bY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN