Martha Defoe had mixed emotions Friday when the man who murdered her daughter at the old Trinity school in Athens accepted a plea deal that took the death penalty off the table.
During an unexpected plea hearing Friday at the Limestone County Courthouse, Lamar Anderson, 48, of Athens, accepted the district attorney's offer to downgrade his charge from capital murder to murder in exchange for a guilty plea. Although Anderson received a life sentence, he will be eligible for parole in a decade or so. However, it would be up to a parole board whether to grant it.
“He now has life, and I have every intention of making it the hardest life it can be,” the Athens mother told The News Courier. “I don’t intend for him to forget what he has taken from me and my family until I quit breathing. If he gets the mail (in prison) and sees who it is from, he may not open it but he’s going to see we haven’t forgotten. He mentally terrorized her and did not seem to care about it, so why should we care about mentally terrorizing him?”
Anderson was formally charged in 2012 with capital murder, burglary and violating a protection order in connection with the March 2011 murder of his estranged girlfriend, 26-year-old Wendy Defoe, also known as Wendy Defoe Bond. Anderson's case had been set for trial Aug. 26. However, in a pre-trial hearing, counsel for Anderson – including Harlan Mitchell and Kristi Valls — challenged the indictment on capital murder-burglary due to a change in the law regarding the legal definition of a building, District Attorney Brian Jones said.
Could not prove burglary
To commit the crime of second-degree burglary, Jones said an individual must knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a building with the intent to commit a crime inside the building while armed with a weapon. Alabama defines a building as any structure that may be entered and used for business, public use, lodging or the storage of goods, he said. After Anderson was indicted, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued two alternative opinions as to the legal definition of a building, Jones said.
“The Trinity School building, owned by the Athens Limestone Community Association, was, at the time of the crime, and is, currently, empty and in a state of great disrepair,” Jones said. “At the time of the crime, the only piece of furniture contained within the building was one desk where the body of Defoe was discovered.”
The Court of Appeals ruled that a building that is empty and in a state of disrepair must be used for storage or the structure itself cannot be considered a building under state law.
Circuit Judge Robert Baker had ruled Monday during a motion hearing that the school building where Defoe was killed was a building because something was stored there. However, the judge left the question open to address later.
Jones said Friday, “in light of the ruling of the Court of Appeals, the issue of capital murder in this case was going to be decided by one desk sitting in the empty Trinity school building.
“While Athens Police Department and my office have worked countless hours to put Lamar Anderson on death row, we cannot take the chance that the appellate courts of this state would find that one desk sitting in a dilapidated and empty structure is not sufficient storage to constitute a building. Such an outcome would reverse a capital murder conviction and could potentially turn a murderer free. As such, and after consultation with the family, Lamar Wallace Anderson pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence.”