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Thursday, October 24, 2013

GUILTY!

Benito Flores found guilty of murder in controversial trial

After more than a week of deliberations, a jury has found Benito Flores guilty of murdering Philip Fontaine.

In the days leading up to this trial, the prosecution, the defense, and court watchers all expected a verdict would come in, one way or another, within a day or two of the case going to the jury.

But to everyone's surprise, the deliberations dragged out day after day after day. Twice the jury sent word to the judge that they were deadlocked – first on Thursday, October 17 and again on Tuesday, October 22 – and twice the judge sent them back to deliberate further.

Finally, late Wednesday afternoon, the jury sent word that they had reached a verdict. The judge decided to delay announcing the verdict until Thursday morning, and notified all parties the court would reconvene at 10:00 a.m.

The courtroom was packed to hear the jury's verdict, and even before court was called to order, the crowd was hushed, waiting for the jury to come in and take their seats.

After the verdict was read, reaction in the courtroom was mixed.

Ashley Fontaine wept and embraced her stepson, the victim's youngest son Grant. Philip Fontaine's older children, daughters Annette Ivy and Teresa Canton and son David Fontaine, were also present and looked satisfied with the guilty verdict, but declined to speak with any reporters as they have since their father's murder.

Prosecutor Calvin Dollarhide appeared pleased and congratulated the victim's family and Detectives Armstrong and Murphy when court was adjourned.

Raquel Santos, Benito Flores' former girlfriend, looked stunned and quickly left the courtroom without speaking to anyone.

Pamela Lipscomb, Flores' attorney, looked crestfallen but remained professional, and she indicated their intent to appeal.

Flores himself remained impassive throughout the proceedings, facing straight ahead and never looking at the victim's family, his ex-girlfriend, or his own attorney.

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin after the lunch recess today.

Crime Beat will cover the sentencing hearing, so check back for updates.

By Kemper Jones at 11:39 AM

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