The Associated Press
HATTIESBURG - Stephanie Stephens has been ordered to prison for life following her conviction on charges she murdered her husband, a well-known Hattiesburg heart surgeon.
Dr. David Stephens, 59, died at his home on May 1, 2001, of a lethal dose of a drug normally found in hospital settings. Stephanie Stephens, who remarried in 2002, claimed her husband killed himself.
A jury deliberated for about two hours Monday before reaching the guilty verdict. Special Judge Jess Dickinson immediately imposed the life sentence.
Dickinson told the weeping Stephens that she had "caused a tremendous amount of grief, not only to the family but to the community."
Stephens, as she was being led to the nearby Forrest County Jail, said she was "shocked" by the verdict.
"I only kept positive thoughts," she said. "I never thought this would happen."
The jury of 10 men and two women was selected in DeSoto County to hear the case in Forrest County Circuit Court.
Prosecutors said Stephens killed her husband to get $732,000 in a deferred compensation package.
"This is a case of pure, unadulterated greed," Assistant Prosecutor Dustin Thomas told jurors in closing arguments. "You have someone who wanted it all and would do anything to get it."
Originally, the doctor's death was listed as due to natural causes. A toxicology report of his blood later showed he had the drug Etomidate, a general anesthesia used in hospitals, in his system. His body was exhumed and an autopsy showed the presence of an additional drug.
"She thought she had committed the perfect crime," said District Attorney Keith Miller, whose district includes George, Greene and Jackson counties.
Miller's office prosecuted the case because Forrest County District Attorney Lindsay Carter said he had a personal conflict.
This was the first trial the broadcast and print media fully covered with cameras in the courtroom since the state began allowing the practice on July 1.