• U.S.

Missouri: Grandma’s Last Roundup

2 minute read

It took the jury less than four hours to decide the sentence: death by lethal injection. If the judge ratifies the jury’s recommendation next month, as expected, Faye Copeland, 69, will become the oldest woman in the nation on death row. Last week Livingston County jurors ordered the ultimate punishment for the Missouri great-grandmother for her role in the bizarre killings of five drifters to cover up a cattle-rustling scheme.

Authorities say that Copeland, with her husband Ray, 75, had hired the transients to buy livestock from local cattle barns with bad checks, resold the animals before the checks bounced, then silenced their unwitting agents. The victims were discovered on farms in northwest Missouri with .22-cal. gunshot wounds in their heads. The cattle scheme allegedly netted the couple $32,000. Prosecutors have also charged Ray Copeland with the murders, but his trial awaits the outcome of a competency hearing later this month. His lawyers claim that Copeland is senile.

Even if last week’s death sentence is upheld by the Missouri courts, Faye Copeland may yet be spared the lethal needle. Given the length of death-row appeals in the state — usually seven to 11 years — legal observers say it is more likely that she will simply die in prison of old age.

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