Jury deliberates fate of Ahwatukee killer - East Valley Tribune: News

Jury deliberates fate of Ahwatukee killer

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2008 9:27 am | Updated: 10:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A jury will continue deliberation Monday to decide if an Ahwatukee Foothills killer will receive life in prison or the death penalty, court spokeswoman J.W. Brown said Friday.

Matthew Cunningham, 30, was convicted Jan. 30 of slitting his roommate's throat outside their apartment and then repeatedly stabbing of a female bystander who rushed outside when she heard the noise.

Both victims died in the attacks shortly after midnight on Oct. 12, 2004.

The jury found Cunningham guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of burglary.

Now, the six men and six women on the panel must decide if he will be put to death for the murders of Robert Barker, 38, and Katharine Spain, 28.

“Cunningham was fed up with his life and just wanted to lash out against others,” prosecutor Mark Barry told the jury Wednesday in his opening statement.

Ryan Gilbert, who called 911 shortly after witnessing the attacks, told the jury how Cunningham placed his left hand on the back of Barker’s head with the knife in his right hand and told his roommate, “It’s over.”

Cunningham’s next victim had left her 2-year-old son in her apartment before stepping outside to find out what was going on.

After murdering Barker and Spain, Cunningham broke into the apartment of Gerardo Barrientos Olivares and Maria Veronica Manriquez.

He stabbed Olivares several times until Manriquez was able to fend him off with a baseball bat.

Both Olivares and Manriquez survived the attack.

In order for the jury to give Cunningham the death penalty, it must find evidence of aggravating conditions such as gratuitous violence, needless mutilation or a connection between the two murders.

Barry asked the jury to use common sense to find Cunningham eligible for the death penalty.

Defense attorney Joel Brown told the jury Cunningham should receive life in prison with a

chance for release after 25 years.

“After hearing about the case, any layperson can know that the act was horrible,” Brown said. “But the fact that he was found guilty does not prove that there were aggravated circumstances.”

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