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Stoddard guilty of Cassel murder

Heather Cassel shot, killed in March 2013

Stoddard guilty of Cassel murder

SPOKANE, Wash. - A jury deliberated for two hours and 45 minutes, including a lunch break, before finding Gary Stoddard guilty of the March 2013 killing of Heather Cassel.

In addition to the murder charge, he was found guilty of first degree kidnapping and was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of both her kidnapping and killing, which will play a role in his sentencing.

The two deadly weapon enhancements will add up to 10 years to his prison term.

After the verdict was read, Cassel's aunt thanked the Spokane Police Department and prosecutors for their work and a speedy verdict.

"We are very happy with the verdict, we are so grateful for the police department and the prosecuting attorney who was marvelous and so now Heather and Dylan are happy," Donna Heinen said.

Stoddard's defense as the trial got underway earlier this week was that he had admitted to the killing to detectives because he thought he had terminal cancer and wanted to protect his nephew, thinking the case would never go to trial.

"He's living the worst nightmare of circumstantial evidence and an incredibly ill-advised decision to try and take the rap for his nephew," defense attorney Kevin Griffin said.

It turned out, however, he didn't have cancer, he was charged with Cassel's killing, and the case moved forward.

Early on his defense attempted to recant Stoddard's confession to police, and then subsequently on the witness stand Stoddard attempted to pin Cassel's murder on his nephew, who was her ex-boyfriend.

Prosecutors built their case against Stoddard using not only his confession to detectives but the evidence gathered that tied him to Cassel's killing, including the murder weapon.

"Five seconds went by as she's screaming for her life and he points the gun at her head, the bull's eye and he shoots her and she falls dead," Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz said,

Both prosecutors and the defense rested their cases Tuesday and the jury returned Wednesday morning for jury instructions from the court, closing arguments and, after nearly three hours, came back with a guilty verdict.

No sentencing date was set Wednesday, but the defense team asked for 45 days to prepare for his sentencing.