Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lorenzo Gilyard

Click HERE for the story from KMBC TV.

A judge sentenced a former trash company supervisor to life in prison without parole Friday for strangling six women in 1986 and 1987. The sentence was the only one possible after Lorenzo Gilyard, 56, was convicted last month of killing the women -- all but one a prostitute.

"He's forfeited any right to live here among the rest of us," Jackson County Judge John O'Malley said. "That's the comfort we can derive." O'Malley said there was a chance the women would have turned their lives around, "except he stole it from them."

Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said the sentencing means that justice was finally brought in relation to the slayings. "I'd like to think that the citizens of Jackson County can sleep a little safer tonight knowing the person who is responsible for these deaths and murders is behind bars, and will be for the rest of his life," Kanatzar said.

Prosecutors agreed in January not to seek the death penalty against Gilyard, as long as Gilyard's attorneys agreed to a trial before a judge without a jury. His attorneys also agreed to give up nearly all of their client's appeal rights.

During the trial, O'Malley acquitted Gilyard of a seventh count of murder. Gilyard had faced 13 counts of murder, but six of those counts -- including one stemming from the death of an Austrian national -- were dropped as the trial got under way.

Kanatzar said his office is still reviewing the six dismissed cases to determine whether to refile them. "We'll probably make an announcement about that in the near future," he said.
Gilyard was linked to the killings in 2004 as police crime lab workers tested evidence from old unsolved cases. His trial got under way March 5, with prosecutors pursuing charges in what they considered the seven strongest cases. Those seven victims -- all but one a prostitute -- were killed in 1986 and 1987.

Family members of the victims spoke prior to Gilyard's sentencing. Tricia Mitchell, whose sister, Catherine Barry, was the only victim not a prostitute, wore her sister's favorite color, turquoise, and spoke about how her sister cared for her and her siblings growing up. "I was afraid of everything and she wasn't afraid of anything," Mitchell said, adding that she grieves that her daughters never got a chance to know their aunt. "Gilyard took that away from them and for that, I will never forgive him."

Much of the testimony during the trial dealt with DNA evidence. Prosecutors said Gilyard's semen was found on six of the women. The defense contended the evidence merely proved Gilyard had sex with the women - but not that he killed them.

The sole acquittal was for the killing of Angela Mayhew, 19, whose body was found on Sept. 12, 1987. Hers was the only body that didn't contain semen, though one of Gilyard's hairs was found on her sweater.

O'Malley said prosecutors had provided him with only suspicions that Gilyard killed Mayhew, not convincing proof.

Defense attorney Tom Jacquinot said Gilyard plans to file a notice of appeal challenging the judge's guilty finding on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient. "Mr. Gilyard to this day still maintains his innocence, though he certainly does empathize with the family," Jacquinot said.

Gilyard wore a blue sweater and tan pants during the sentencing, but had changed into an orange jail suit and shackles by the time deputies escorted him to the elevator to leave the courthouse.

Relatives of the victims watched smiling as he was led away.

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