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Guilty verdict in Tuscaloosa murder case

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A 23-year-old woman was found guilty of murder Monday in the drowning death of an 84-year-old man.

Jessica Reena Thomas was one of three people charged with killing Ellis Hinton in January 2004. The other two — 26-year-old Sheila Evette Allen and 21-year-old Michael Pearson Jr. — pleaded guilty last year and are serving life sentences.

All three were charged with kidnapping Hinton and drowning him in the Black Warrior River. Investigators said the three thought Hinton had a lot of money in his home.

Hinton was knocked unconscious during a struggle at his home. The three then loaded him into his own car and drove the Pontiac Bonneville into the river, investigators said. It was found in the Moody Swamp west of Tuscaloosa.

Investigators never found any money, but they did recover a wedding ring, $8 in cash, two weed trimmers, a shotgun, a tape measure and a package of T-shirts.

The jury found Thomas guilty of felony murder, a lesser charge than capital murder. That means she is not eligible for the death penalty.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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