The youngest woman ever charged with murder in Utah was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of another woman during a 1987 party.
After deliberating more than two hours, the jury found Venus Sherard guilty of fatally stabbing 23-year-old Ruby Kelly. Kelly suffered nine stab wounds to the chest, back and abdomen.Sherard, now 18, showed no emotion in response to the verdict.
Third District Judge David S. Young set a March 10 sentencing date. Sherard, who was 16 at the time of the killing, faces a five-years-to-life prison term.
During the four-day trial, Sherard took the witness stand in her own defense. She admitted to the killing but called it "self-defense."
She testified she was 12 when she became involved in the gang Varrios Chosen Few, but at age 16 she had tried to leave gang life.
On the day of the slaying - March 7, l987 - she had taken LSD, smoked marijuana, drank whiskey and was persuaded by friends to go to a party on Salt Lake's west side.
A fight ensued. Sherard felt like was she was "going to be destroyed," she tearfully testified.
"I don't like any of it. It was all unnecessary. There's someone dead who didn't deserve to die," she told jurors.
She testified that she had never met Kelly before that night.
In closing arguments Friday, prosecutor Kent Morgan said Sherard intended to kill Kelly. If she had not intended to kill her, Sherard would have used her knife to escape form the "vicious crowd."
Anger - not fear - was Sherard's motive for killing Kelly, said Morgan.
He urged the jury to find Sherard guilty of a "brutal, unjustified, unmitigated murder."
Pointing to Sherard's youth at the time of the killing, defense attorney Debi Loy said Sherard was "16 years old. She was alone. She was afraid."
Loy said Sherard had attempted to leave the party but was surrounded by Kelly's friends. She was on enemy territory and had no choice but to fight, the attorney said.
"There is no contest that this was something that arose out of gang involvement," Loy told the jury. "She had no one there that would stick up for her and help her in the fight."