The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


February 27, 2009

1999: The murder conviction of Patricia Earl

Editor’s note: This article is part of our series that takes a look back at our area within the last few decades. This article was printed in the Jan. 27, 1999, edition of the Clinton Herald.

By Lori Allesee

Herald Staff Writer

MORRISON, Ill. — In less than three hours Tuesday, a seven-man, five-woman jury found Patricia Earl guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of her 57-year-old husband.

Earl, 42, of Erie, Ill., was charged with four counts of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting her husband, Jerry, to death in the couple’s waterbed Feb. 5, 1998.

After the jury’s decision, Circuit Court Judge Dan Dunagan remanded Earl into the custody of the court, without bail. Earl had been released on an $85,000 bond since her arrest.

The jury had the option of finding Earl not guilty of the charge, guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

“I have faith in the jury system,” said Whiteside County Attorney Gary Spencer after the trial.

Earl will be sentenced on the first-degree murder charge March 30. She faces up to 60 years in prison.

For the last week, the jury listened to testimony from Earl, a 911 tape, household family members, Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department officials and expert testimony.

Earl, through her attorney, Tym Kerr, claimed the fatal shooting was a result of years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Earl maintained that her husband was a batterer.

“I don’t believe they (the jury) bought it,” Spencer said. “I didn’t buy it. I think she was an angry person at that time and the anger got the best of her.”

Kerr plans to appeal the decision. The jury selection process and the court’s decision to not allow certain evidence tapes into the courtroom will be grounds for Kerr’s appeal.

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