Poplar Bluff man sentenced to death for 1997 murder

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Cape Girardeau County jury took about three and one-half hours Wednesday to decide a Poplar Bluff man should die for killing his daughter’s grandmother.

The jury’s death sentence was identical to what another Cape County jury handed down in January 2001 after it convicted Terrance L. Anderson of first-degree murder in the July  1997 death of Debbie Rainwater. Anderson also was convicted of killing Stephen Rainwater and sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility of probation or parole for his death.

In July 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the 32-year-old’s death sentence and ordered a new penalty phase be held in his case.

"In this case, we started with the fact he was guilty this time; (the jury) decided punishment alone," explained Assistant Attorney General Robert Ahsens  III, who presented the state’s case on Monday.

Ahsens said he presented testimony from about 15 witnesses, including law enforcement personnel, the pathologist, a treating physician and coroner, as well as the "four girls who were there — Abbey and Whitney (Rainwater) and the two teenagers who were in the house at the time."

Anderson and the couple’s then 17-year-old daughter, Abbey Rainwater, had dated and had an infant daughter together.

The Rainwaters were killed July 25, 1997, at their home in the 1000 block of Montclair Drive. Armed with a stolen handgun, Anderson forced his

way into the Rainwater home, where he shot Debbie Rainwater in the head as she held his infant daughter. Anderson then ambushed Stephen Rainwater in the front yard when he arrived home.

When Anderson forcibly entered the Rainwater home, the couple’s daughters, Abbey and Whitney, then 11, as well as two of Abbey’s friends, were there. After Abbey Rainwater ran for help, Anderson used

Whitney, his daughter and one of the friends in an attempt to lure his ex-girlfriend and the other friend out of hiding.

Ahsens said he put on evidence of the crime, as well as "some information about the impact of the murder on the girls and the rest of their families."

The defense, Ahsens said, put on a series of witnesses

Tuesday, finishing with its last witness Wednesday morning.

"Their argument was (Anderson) was operating under extreme emotional distress over the difficulties he was having with Abbey Rainwater," Ahsens said. "(Anderson) took the stand and testified, which he did not at the first trial."

Ahsens said he suspected Anderson’s attorneys might put him on the stand based on the way they tried the case and what was said during last week’s jury selection process.

"It was unfortunate for him; it didn’t do any good," Ahsens said. "He testified about the murder, admitted to it, but it was self-serving. I took him to task on cross examination. …

"There were a lot of inconsistencies between what he said, what other people said and what the physical evidence demonstrated.

" … The things he said, I think tended to hurt him as a witness. He admitted he had gone there with the purpose to kill both of the Rainwaters, and kill Abbey as well. That was something we hadn’t heard before."

After hearing closing arguments, the jury, which Ahsens described as being "fairly even balanced" between men and women, began its deliberations at about 10:30 a.m. It returned with a verdict just after 2 p.m.

"My guess was (the jury) would be out three or four hours; this time, for a change, I was close to being right," Ahsens said. "I wasn’t surprised (by the length of time). I’m pleased it didn’t take any longer than it did. It was hard on everybody."

Ahsens said Anderson was "(showing) no emotion at all" when the jury verdict was read.

In assessing and declaring the punishment of death, the jury found the following statutory aggravating circumstance(s) beyond a reasonable doubt:

"The murder of Deborah Rainwater was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of another unlawful homicide of Stephen Rainwater.

"The murder of Deborah Rainwater involved depravity of mind and whether, as a result thereof, the murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhumane. We determined the defendant killed Deborah Rainwater as part of the defendant’s plan to kill more than one person and thereby exhibited a callus disregard for the sanctity of all human life."

Ahsens said the victims’ family seemed pleased with the jury’s verdict. "As one of them put it, ‘We haven’t lost anything,’" he said.

According to Ahsens, a lot of Anderson’s family and friends testified on his behalf.

"There were 10 to 12 of them (including) coaches … They all spoke well of him for the period of time they knew him," Ahsens said. "From what

I gather, he was a promising young man. For whatever reason, he got into a situation and couldn’t control himself and did something awful."

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