Court rules on death-sentence appeal of Phenix City woman who hired man to kill daughter

Lisa Graham given death sentence in Russell County court

Judge Jacob Walker III sentences Lisa Graham to death for hiring a gunman to kill her daughter on July 5, 2007.
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Judge Jacob Walker III sentences Lisa Graham to death for hiring a gunman to kill her daughter on July 5, 2007.

An Alabama appeals court has upheld the conviction and death sentence of Lisa Leanne Graham, the Phenix City woman found guilty of hiring a family friend to kill her own daughter.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the court’s decision in a news release Friday.

Graham, 51, was convicted of murder in Russell County Circuit Court in March 2015. The evidence showed she arranged for Kenneth Walton, who worked for the family’s construction business, to kill her daughter Stephanie “Shea” Graham, 20.

Authorities said the mother feared Shea Graham would skip out on a $100,000 bond that Lisa Graham had secured for her release from jail on charges stemming from a drive-by shooting in Columbus.

Walton testified the mother met him at the Columbus Public Library on the evening of July 7, 2007, and loaned him her 9-millimeter pistol for the job.

Walton later caught up with the daughter at a Victory Drive gas station, where she left the friends she’d been out with that night and rode off in Walton’s pickup truck. Claiming he would help her find a car in which she could leave town, he took her on a long drive down Alabama Highway 165 before pulling off on Bowden Road so they could relieve themselves.

When she got out to squat beside the truck’s open passenger door, he pulled out the pistol and shot her in the head from the driver’s seat. Then he got out, walked around the truck and shot her again and again.

He left her half-nude, bullet-riddled body where it lay, and drove away. Asked in court how his betraying the young woman made him feel, he replied, “I felt normal.”

Because witnesses saw Shea Graham leave the gas station with Walton, investigators focused on him immediately. He confessed, and told them of the mother’s involvement.

Walton pleaded guilty June 14, 2012, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Other witnesses testifying during Lisa Graham’s 2015 trial said the mother repeatedly had remarked that Shea Graham was ruining her life, and she would kill her daughter if she could.

The bizarre murder case gained national attention, and in 2017 was featured on the Oxygen channel TV show “Snapped.”

Alabama is one of 29 states that allows the death penalty.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.