Man guilty in murders of woman, her children

Saturday, January 19, 2002

CLAYTON, Mo. -- The second man accused in the 1999 stranglings of a pregnant mother and her three children was convicted Friday on five first-degree murder counts, each carrying life behind bars without parole.

Harold "Bobby" Lingle, a mentally impaired man who during the five-day trial dozed off at the defense table and winked at onlookers, showed no reaction to the verdict jurors reached in little more than three hours.

Prosecutors urged jurors earlier Friday -- a day short of the three-year anniversary of the Springfield killings -- to convict 37-year-old Lingle of all five first-degree counts.

Lingle's attorneys asked that Lingle only be convicted of the second-degree murder in the deaths of Erin Vanderhoef and her fetus, and acquit Lingle in the deaths of the children, ages 9 to 11.

Second-degree murder is punishable by 10 to 30 years behind bars, or life with prospects of parole.

The verdict by the seven-man, five-woman jury rejected defense claims that Lingle -- given his documented history of learning difficulties, mental illness and IQ in the 70s -- lacked the capacity to deliberate in the killings.

Prosecutors had to prove deliberation to get a first-degree murder conviction.

Seeking new trial

Lingle's sentencing was set for March 8 in Springfield. His attorneys said they planned to seek a new trial in the Greene County case, heard here on a change of venue.

"I think it's a right and just verdict," Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore said, offering little sympathy for Lingle. "The reality is that he made knowing decisions, and you have to pay the consequences for them."

"This was a very sad thing to sit through," said Bevy Beimdiek, a Lingle public defender. "Keeping Bobby calm and helping him understand what was going on was a challenge."

Richard DeLong was convicted last year in the Jan. 19, 1999, killings and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

DeLong girlfriend Stacie Leffingwell, who Moore said he believes masterminded the killings, also was charged in the deaths but died in jail of complications from AIDS while awaiting trial.

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