Man Spared Death Penalty For Murder of Retarded Woman in Nevada

A jury has decided not to impose the death penalty on a man convicted of first-degree murder in the March 2001 suffocation of a mentally handicapped woman in Henderson.

Cornelius Rogers, 42, was sentenced Saturday to life in prison without the chance of parole for the killing of 33-year-old Julie Holt during a burglary at her family's home.

The Clark County District Court jury weighed mitigating circumstances in deciding not to hand down the death penalty, including Rogers' difficult upbringing.

During the two-day sentencing hearing, his attorneys and others told the jury that Rogers grew up in poverty with an abusive father who was in and out of his life and a mother who was ill-equipped to care for him and his five sisters.

Rogers spent time in foster care and lost an eye at the age of 15 in a drive-by shooting in California.

He already has spent at least 20 years behind bars for various offenses, including sexual assault and pistol-whipping a woman.

"They considered the struggles and horrors of the defendant's childhood in reaching this decision," public defender Scott Coffee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I know it's not a decision they made lightly."

Although prosecutors pushed for the death penalty, they regarded
the sentence as a victory.

"The goal of the state was to protect the community by never having Cornelius Rogers be out again. We met that goal," Deputy District Attorney Tracey Brierly said.

Rogers had been released from the Southern Desert Correctional
Center near Indian Springs four months before the murder.

Kathy Holt, the victim's mother, attended the sentencing hearing but declined to comment. She had previously said that she wanted Rogers to receive the harshest punishment.
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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-30-07 1808EST


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