Clear Lake High graduate Christine Paolilla was found guilty of capital murder by a Harris County jury Monday and will be sentenced to life in prison.
Paolilla was charged with the murders of four young people in Clear Lake five years ago -- killed in a Brook Forest home while enjoying a pizza party.
The panel got the case after Assistant District Attorneys Rob Freyer and Greg Goodheart and defense attorney Mike DeGeurin presented their closing arguments, each trying to punch holes in the other’s case.
DeGeurin worked to discredit the most damaging testimony and paint Paolilla as a frightened unwilling participant in the quadruple murders, committed by her then-boyfriend Christopher Snider -- telling jurors that they should not convict her unless they thought she was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."
He also showed a large photo of Snider, who committed suicide in July 2006, and questioned police tactics in questioning his client.
Freyer asked "if this horrible event could have happened without her." And, he wanted to know, "if she was so scared of Snider, why did she call him 11 times the day after the murders? Why do a home invasion of someone you know unless you’re going to kill them?
"You are the ones who get to clean up the wreckage," he told the jurors, going on to show photos of the four victims.
"This is Adelbert Sanchez. That young man will never get to go home again, never get to eat a cheeseburger, enjoy Christmas. His family can go visit him at the graveyard." Then, turning and pointing at Paolilla, he said. "But her mommy can visit her in prison.
"Those kids don’t get to go home again and she shouldn’t either."
Goodheart quickly went on the attack, calling it a home invasion for dope. "They sold drugs in that house. She knew about the drugs, Christopher had only been there one time. She got them in."
Earlier, Paolilla told police how she had blood on her hand and went in the bathroom and washed it off. "So, how in the name of God did she get blood on her hand if she didn’t participate?
"Disregarding all the rest (of the evidence), she was a willing participant in a dope hijacking," Goodheart said as he concluded the case.
Both prosecution and defense rested their cases at the end of last week -- the prosecution after testimony put the defendant at the scene of the crime and also taking part in the quadruple murder, and the defense after trying to dispute damaging testimony.
Paolilla, now 22, is charged with accompanying Snider on July 18, 2003 and killing Tiffany Rowell and Rachael Ann Koloroutis, both 18; Marcus Ray Precella, 19; and Precella’s cousin from Houston, Adelbert Nicholas Sanchez, 21, as they were enjoying a pizza party at the Rowell home.
Rowell and Koloroutis, recent Clear Lake High graduates, and Precella, were former classmates and friends of Paolilla, who was 17 at the time of the murders and therefore not eligible for the death penalty.
Snider committed suicide in Greenville, S.C., shortly after Paolilla’s arrest, as Houston Police looked for him.
Paolilla told police that she and Snider went to the Rowell home looking for drugs and Snider just started shooting the four, even putting his hand on the gun he had given her to hold and causing it to go off.
Later, however, a HPD fire arms expert testified that neither of the guns used in the crime, found at the home of Snider’s mother and stepfather in Louisville, Ky., would go off as Paolilla claimed, showing jurors that it was somewhat difficult to fire either weapon.
Paolilla’s husband, Stanley Justin Rott, testified at length how she confessed her role in the murders to him numerous times and how they were both addicted to heroin.
Each of the victims had been shot multiple times, a doctor from the Medical Examiner’s Office testified, and both Precella and Koloroutis also suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
A psychiatrist, Dr. George Glass, testified for the defense Thursday afternoon, talking about Paolilla’s "very unfortunate life."
He told the jury how her uncle committed suicide, how her father was killed in a construction accident when she was a child, leaving her mother overwhelmed with two small children and no insurance, and then how her mother turned to drugs.
"All this could affect a person," he said, explaining that while still a child she also developed alopecia, losing all her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and was teased at school about her wig -- making her vulnerable to bad guys such as Snider, whom she met in intermediate school.
Glass also testified that he did not think Paolilla had the capacity to waive her rights when police were questioning her, as she was in withdrawal from heroin.
He said one’s mental state during withdrawal is concentrating on drugs. "I don’t think she had a clue (about what was going on). She just wanted to feel better."
In the police video he watched, he said, "she doesn’t look like anyone who can make reasonable decisions."