Life Sentence for Murderer of 3 JWs
Thank you so very much.
Court upholds Cornett's life sentence in Lillelid slayings
By The Associated Press
October 2, 2002
The life sentence of a woman convicted for the roadside murders of a 6-year-old girl and her parents was upheld Tuesday by a state appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals in Knoxville denied an appeal by Natasha W. Cornett, who contended her attorneys were ineffective and that she did not voluntarily or intelligently enter into a plea bargain.
Cornett was convicted, along with five other young people from eastern Kentucky, of first-degree murder in the 1997 shooting deaths of Vidar and Delifina Lillelid and their daughter, Tabitha. They were each sentenced in 1998 to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The Lillelids, who were headed home to Knox County from a Jehovah's Witnesses conference in Johnson City, were taken hostage from an Interstate 81 rest area in Greene County, gunned down and left for dead. The couple's 2-year-old son, Peter, was wounded but survived.
The Kentuckians were caught in the Lillelid van two days later in Arizona.
The trial court so far has denied five of the defendants post-conviction relief. Cornett is the second of the six to appeal that decision. Earlier this month, lawyers for Crystall R. Sturgill argued before the appeals court that their client's plea was flawed because she didn't understand the significance of pleading guilty at the time. A ruling has not yet been issued on that appeal. Cornett's attorneys argued a similar case.
They said Cornett's acceptance of the "package deal" plea bargain was "designed to coerce less culpable individuals to feel responsible for the lives of others." But the court disagreed.
"Whether the motivation was to escape her own death or assist the others in doing so, the circumstances suggest that the guilty pleas were knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently made," the court wrote.
Poor folks, coming back from a convention and ending up dead.
Only the little boy survived.
Vidar Lillelid, who was an active Jehovah's Witness, approached
Cornett and Howell at the rest stop in order to discuss his religious views. He was
accompanied by his son, Peter.
Eventually, Risner and Bryant joined the
conversation. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lillelid and her daughter, Tabitha, were seated at a
nearby picnic table. After a time, Risner, Bryant, Howell, and Cornett joined the
entire Lillelid family and continued their conversation.
At some point, Risner displayed one of the guns and said,
"I hate to do you this way, but we are going to
have to take you with us for your van." As he then directed the Lillelid family into
their van, Vidar Lillelid pleaded with the group, offering his keys and wallet in
exchange for permission to remain at the rest stop. Risner refused.
Vidar Lillelid drove the van while Risner, still armed, sat in the
passenger seat. Risner, Bryant, Howell, and Cornett were in the van with the
Lillelids. Mullins and Sturgill followed in Risner's car. In an attempt to calm the
children, Delfina Lillelid began to sing. Bryant purportedly ordered her to stop.
Risner directed Mr. Lillelid first to the interstate and then to a secluded road at the
My god, what happened to these people is so horrible.
But I don't believe the fact that they were Jehovah's
Witnesses has anything to do with why they were targeted.
They were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Why did not God save them?
How could HE just watch as
all this unfolded?
It is so strange. Particularly because they were witnessing to them, they were out in the field service, and should they then not be "protected" somehow. We are so eager, often, to look for signs, that some strange occurences have a meaning of some sort, that it is God or the angles somehow interferring and directing things down the good road. This belief looks very strange when one reads about the Lillelid case. Half a Spanish congregation, including many children, fried to death in a bus some years ago, and horrified people standing close by could do nothing to help the screaming children trying to get out, because of the heat. They had to stand there and watch the children fry. Where was God? Where was God on the rest stop when Lillelid approached the maniacs?
Some years ago, there was an article in the Watchtower about a single mother who could not afford travelling to the convention with her children. So she grew strawberries and sold them. And the strawberries were so big and beautiful that people came from nearand far to awe and buy. God's hand to help her. A fisherman cancelled the trip during the convention. The non-Witness crew were angry. The day after the convention they went out fishing and caught so much you have to go back to Peter's days to find its equal. God's hand.
But where was the hand of God on the rest stop? Where was it in Spain? His people fried and his people were slaughtered.
I think they have tuned down such interference stories lately - and that the remaining ones should be dropped altogether.
Shit happens. I can only hope the Universe DOES care. The thought of living in an indifferent Universe scares the shit out of me.
It also happened to the 2 JWs beheaded in the Philippines and the 4 women still hostages. Fact of the matter is, that such things can happen to anyone. And death will befall all of us as well. Your goodness or lack of it has nothing to do with it. Even Jesus died. Now, why do we all have to die? I don't understand it, but I know its inevitable. And whether I blame God, the Universe, Satan, man or whatever does nothing to change what is. But acceptance is not an easy thing. Maybe we need to change our perception of death as something evil?? Death just happens.
Yep, Kenneson, but as for me, I don't demand anything, neither much money nor a big house nor beautiful nature nor warmth nor acceptance, nor anything, but this one thing called LIFE, EXISTENCE.
Man, do I love life, just the sheer thing of being alive!
And man, does the thought of non-existence scare the shit out of me!