A jury of six women and six men found Leslie A. "Williams" Young, 34, guilty of capital murder, aggravated robbery, attempted arson and two counts of theft. The trial began July 18 and ended July 21 before Circuit Judge Harold S. Erwin in the Sharp County Courthouse.
Young received an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole for the capital murder conviction, 40 years for aggravated robbery, 10 years for one count of theft, three years on the other count of theft and 90 days for the attempted arson conviction. All terms are to run consecutively.
Young and her husband, William Franklin Young Jr., were both charged with capital murder in the stabbing death of Stephen Furr, 38, of rural Cave City.
William Young's trial is set for Oct. 2. Scott Nance of Jackson County will represent William Young.
"I am pleased with the jury's verdict and feel that justice has been done and look forward to the trial of William Young," said Henry Boyce, 3rd Judicial District prosecutor who represented the state along with Sharp County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Garner. "I think that the people of Sharp County should be proud of the Sharp County Sheriff's Office for solving this case and apprehending the defendant as fast as they did."
R.T. Starken, who served as Young's public defender, said he was surprised with the jury's verdict, although he called no defense witnesses.
"The capital murder conviction surprised me; the other convictions did not surprise me," Starken said. "She asked me to be sure to file an appeal for her."
Furr, a self-employed heating and cooling technician, was found stabbed to death in a recliner inside his home at 17 Buck Lane, outside of Cave City, at 7:18 p.m. Jan. 2 by his two sons, Chase and Douglas, then ages 12 and 9. The boys had gone to the home to retrieve a Play Station 2 game system they had received for Christmas and left at the home. Their mother, Devonda Furr, called police.
Furr had been stabbed 12 times in the torso, arms and neck. A flathead Klein screwdriver and an Old Hickory kitchen knife, both bloodstained, were found underneath him in the chair.
The Youngs, who met Furr Jan. 1, almost immediately became suspects.
Furr's ex-wife, Devonda Furr, said she last saw him alive around 1 a.m. Jan. 2 when Furr and the Youngs, who lived in a Curia Creek apartment, dropped her off along with her youngest son at her apartment in the same complex after a night of visiting and drinking with friends at Greg Girtman's house.
During the evening Young flirted with Furr and exposed her breasts to him, Devonda Furr said. The action aggravated her because her young son was in the room, she testified. Devonda Furr said no one was fighting when she was dropped off.
She said when Furr and the Youngs left her house she thought they were going to go to Tom's Steakhouse.
Dr. Adam Craig, forensic pathologist with the Arkansas Crime Laboratory and one of the state's 23 witnesses, said Furr had 12 stab wounds to his body including two on his head, one on his neck, one on his shoulder, five on his chest and three on his arms. He also had cuts on his face, arms and hands. He had 22 bruises on his chest that appeared to have been inflicted with the end of a flathead screwdriver. Those 22 wounds could have been inflicted after Furr was dead, he testified.
He said two stab wounds and three or four cuts were defensive as if Furr was trying to fight off his attacker.
Three of the stabs punctured his chest, two punctured his lung and one punctured his liver. Craig said Furr's alcohol level was .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Lisa Channel, chief criminalist at the crime lab, said she examined blue jeans Leslie Young was wearing when she was booked in the Sharp County Jail. The jeans had numerous blood spatters. She took samples from two areas, one area that originated on the outside of the jeans and one that originated inside the jeans.
Channel said the area inside the jeans appeared as though a drop of blood fell inside. She said it is highly unlikely Young had been wearing the jeans when the blood fell.
There was also an absence of blood from Furr's lower abdomen. The jeans were most likely covering his waistline, Channel said.
Terry Rolfe, chief forensic DNA examiner from the crime lab, said the DNA from the blood on Young's jeans matched the DNA from Furr.
Young's fingerprints were not found at the scene. Rubie Ross, who takes latent fingerprints for the crime lab, said three fingerprints and two palm prints taken by Arkansas State Police Investigator Wendell Jines from Furr's truck were identified as Young's. One set of latent prints was not identified, she said.
She said fingerprints are difficult to take from bloody items, including the murder weapons.
In addition a gas wall heater was found torn off a wall inside Furr's trailer. The gas line appeared to have been intentionally ruptured.
Stephen Ray, arson expert for the state crime lab, said the damage to the gas line would have caused propane to leak into the home. A bag of dog food found near the wall hadbeen lit but burned itself out. The evidence was consistent with an attempt to burn the house down, he said.
Ray did not go to the Furr home. He said whether a fire would burn the house would depend on how fast the home filled with gas. The reason the home didn't burn could have been because the perpetrators didn't build a good enough fire.
Dewayne Bishop of Newport, who works at E-Z Pawn in Batesville, testified that William Young and Jimmy Doug Simpson came into the shop Jan. 3 with an assortment of items to pawn. He said a female was in the vehicle but could not identify Leslie Young as the woman with the two men.
Young pawned a tool pouch full of tools, a set of gauges, a Craftsman cordless drill, a Cooper digital temperature instrument, Milwaukee electric saw and a 10-amp battery charger at the shop. The items were later confiscated and identified by Furr's brother, Chris Furr, as items Furr kept in his truck.
Simpson, a convicted felon, testified that he hid Furr's truck inside his shop at his mother's home. He then took the couple and their two youngest sons to a convenience store to get food for the boys and then to Batesville to the pawn shop with items that came from Furr's truck. He said the Youngs' two sons were in their underwear and wrapped in sheets.
He later dropped off the Young family at a local doctor's office. On his way home he was stopped by an Independence County deputy and questioned about the whereabouts of the Youngs.
When Simpson returned home he hid the truck near his home, Simpson testified. He said William Young told him the truck was borrowed.
Independence County authorities then went to Simpson's house and learned the location of Furr's truck, on Shoemake Lane one to two miles from Simpson's home.
Independence County Deputy Chris Little arrested the Youngs at the doctor's office on Harrison Street in Batesville. In a patdown search he took items from Young. Those items were transported to the Sharp County Jail with Young.
While on the stand Furr's brother, Chris Furr, reviewed the bag of items taken from Young at the time of her arrest. One item was his brother's key ring which included some keys that he had given his brother himself. He also identified a broken key as that to Furr's truck.
Sheriff Dale Weaver said he spoke with Young after she was taken into custody at the jail. He said he asked her where she was Jan. 1 and she told him about being with Furr and his ex-wife. She said they didn't steal Furr's truck. When Weaver told her something bad happened she said, "I didn't do it," Weaver testified.
During the sentencing phase of the trial John Thompson took the stand and told the jury he has known Young five to six years.
"In my opinion she's a good girl and I can't believe what happened," he said. "I think she's a good mom and needs to be home with her two kids."
Karen Asten, who has been raising Young's 14-year-old son, Tyler, for about a year said she has known Young about four years.
"I saw a person who had a good heart and was very compassionate but had a problem with drugs," she said. "I think she really wanted to get help but didn't know how to."
William Young, who did not testify, has confessed to the crime, according to police. He told Arkansas State Police special agents Gary Gray and Pardo Roberts in January that he was at Furr's home working on a computer when Furr began making advances toward his wife.
"William stated Steve ripped Leslie's shirt off and she was screaming for help. William stated Steve grabbed a knife and swung it at him and cut his (William's) right hand. William stated he picked up something that was leaning against the wall and hit him (Steve) with something like a pipe at which time Steve dropped the knife. William then stated he picked up the knife and stabbed him a couple of times around the shoulder. William went on to say, 'It seemed like it wasn't doing any good and I must have picked up the screwdriver and stabbed him (Steve) with it and he fell back into the chair,'" the arrest affidavit said.
Furr himself had been charged with second-degree murder for the 1991 death of his wife's first husband.
According to the Howard County Circuit Clerk's Office, Furr murdered Devonda Furr's husband, Rodney Curry, on Christmas day 1991.
A drunken Curry, 29, threatened Furr, who had been living with Devonda Furr, with a knife. Furr fired one shot at Curry, striking him in the face and killing him. Furr argued the action was in self defense.
Furr was convicted of manslaughter Sept. 16, 1992, and sentenced to three years in prison.