Edward Bennett, 19, of Lehi, was convicted of first-degree murder late Monday for killing a young convenience store clerk who was shot in the face during an attempted holdup.
The jury begins the penalty phase of the trial Wednesday. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty.The jury of seven-men and five-women returned the verdict to District Judge Miriam Shearing Monday night. The defendant was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and attempted robbery.
Defense attorneys called no witnesses, and Bennett refused to testify.
He was charged with killing convenience store clerk Michelle Moore, 21, during the attempted robbery of a Stop 'N Go market three miles east of the Las Vegas Strip on Feb. 9. Teenage customer Derrick Franklin was shot and wounded when he attempted to flee the crime scene.
Moore, a newlywed who had moved to Nevada from Grand Junction, Colo., two months before the murder, was shot in the face with a 45-caliber pistol. Franklin identified Bennett as one of the robbers but told the jury in earlier testimony he did not see which of two men fired the fatal shot.
The murder trial of co-defendant Joseph Beeson, 18, of Orem, Utah, begins next month.
District Judge Miriam Shearing asked Bennett Monday if he wanted to testify, but he declined.
"The killer of Michelle Moore, the killer with the Wild West mentality, the killer with the callous indifference to the sanctity of human life, is Edward Bennett," prosecutor Melvyn Harmon told the jury Monday in asking the panel to return a verdict of first-degree murder.
Harmon has said he will seek the death penalty.
"There is evidence that two young hooligans came into the Stop 'N Go and shot her in her tracks, between the eyes," said Harmon. "The proof is overwhelming that Michelle Moore was the victim of first-degree murder."
Bennett and Beeson were arrested about a month after Moore's murder when Jeffrey Chidester, 18, notified police Bennett confessed the crime to him while they were at a park in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
"He said he picked up her head and could see all the way through it," Chidester said in earlier testimony. Chidester also told the jury Bennett and Beeson planned to rob the store and go "on a killing spree."
Defense attorney Cal Potter challenged the credibility of the police informant's testimony in closing arguments Monday. Potter said Chidester had been a police informant half a dozen times before the Moore killing.
"His testimony is not cheap," said Potter. Chidester could receive a $32,000 reward if the suspects are convicted.
"In this case there is a theme from the Wild West, but it comes from a time much before frontier days. It goes all the way back to a system in Italy based on Machiavelli - the end justifies the means."
"As Ed Bennett sits here, this is the most important day in his life. The saddest day is when Jeffrey Chidester's testimony is enough for a conviction," argued Potter.