Friday, August 10 2012, 10:58 AM CDT
Families get emotional in court
By Whitney Clark/KTVL.com
MEDFORD, Ore. -- "You destroyed our family, and we're never going to be the same again. Ever."
That was the message Bonnie Payne's mother had in court Thursday afternoon for the man who killed her daughter.
Mitchell Below was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison after a two-day trial. Judge Timothy Gerking found him guilty of strangling Payne at the couple's apartment in March 2011.
Payne's mother addressed the courtroom after the verdict was read, telling Below she has a very small family and now her granddaughters will never see their mother again. She said the last 17 months have been the most difficult time in her life.
In closing arguments, defense attorneys argued Below suffers from major depression and alcoholism. They said his disorders make it difficult to make conscious decisions and killing Payne was not one of them.
Judge Gerking ruled otherwise. He believes Below understood what he was doing when he strangled the way he killed her was calculated.
However, Gerking said he knew this was a tough situation for all families involved, saying he knew Below still suffered from mental issues. He said he felt sorry that Below's life has turned out the way it did.
After the verdict Below's family members were so distraught emergency responders were called in, bringing a stretcher in the courtroom.
Below's family did not want to comment on the case.
Deputy District Attorney Jeremey Markiewicz says although they feel justice was served, nothing will bring back Payne.
"Nothing brings back her to her mother," he said. "We can only do what we can do reactively, and we did everything we could over the last two days."
When Below was given the chance to speak in the courtroom he apologized for what he had done. He then went on to say Payne hated her mother, and he thought it was funny she was at the trial.
"I could tell you one thing -- Bonnie didn't like her mom one bit," Below said. "They couldn't be in the same room together. They hated each other.
Just wanted to get that off my chest."
Below must serve 25 years in prison. If he is granted parole, he will be under post-prison supervision for the rest of his life.