FULTON, Mo. - After three hours of deliberation Friday, a jury found Sandra Plunkett guilty of first-degree murder in the New Year's Day 2011 death of her husband, a retired Jefferson City police officer. She was sentenced to life without parole.
Jurors also found her guilty on charges of armed criminal action. Presiding Judge Gary Oxenhandler will determine her sentence for the armed criminal action charge, which will be at least three years. The judge will determine the exact number of years for that charge.
Jury deliberations began Friday morning after the closing statements from Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson and Sandra Plunkett's defense attorney Justin Carver.
In Wilson's closing statements Friday morning, he asserted Sandra Plunkett killed her husband so she could pay for her heroin addiction. Wilson also said Plunkett was a liar, pointing out several times she lied to investigators about what occurred on the day of her husband's death. He said Plunkett claiming self-defense is a "glorious lie," and restated the only person with a firsthand account of abuse is Plunkett.
Defense attorney Carver told jurors the killing was an act of self-defense because the retired policeman had abused Plunkett. Carver also used Paul Plunkett's connection to police as a reason Sandra Plunkett did not report abuse. Carver referenced an interview between Sandra Plunkett and Sgt. David Rice with the Missouri State Highway Patrol from January 2011 during his closing statement.
In that interview, Rice assured Plunkett investigators would find the person responsible for her husband's murder, stating "we take care of our own." That statement Rice made to Sandra, Carver said, reinstated the idea she was afraid of contacting police, and also played into investigators' loyalty to Paul Plunkett when solving the case.
In his rebuttal, Wilson said, "We take care of our own" was a way for Rice and investigators to assure Sandra Plunkett they were going to help her, as she was the wife of a former police officer.
After the verdict was read, a long-time friend of Sandra Plunkett's family said they were taking the verdict "very hard" and believed first-degree murder was harsh.
Said friend Vince Halbert: "It's tough to think that your daughter is going to prison for life," Halbert said.
A statement released Friday by the family of Paul Plunkett said: "It has obviously been a long, difficult and stressful three years for everyone involved. While we are certainly hurt by the lack of remorse and falsehoods presented by the defendant, we sincerely appreciate the patience and wisdom demonstrated by the judge and jury in this trial.
"It is also our hope that the Jefferson City community will choose to remember the reputation Paul achieved prior to his murder; a person committed to public service, a person who believed in the criminal justice system, a person who treated people fairly regardless of their status and one with an outstanding personality that so many recognized and expressed to the family during his extended sickness and death."
Kyle McIntyre, chief of the Holts Summit Police Department, also released a statement regarding the trial.
"With the jury's decision to return a guilty verdict, Paul's family and his law enforcement brothers and sisters can now begin to put this case behind them," the statement reads. "Many of the officers working on this investigation knew Paul personally; however they remained true to their oath and acted professionally when dealing with Sandra despite knowing she was the person responsible for Paul's death."