Crime

Killer testifies to sordid details in Lisa Graham's murder-for-hire trial in daughter's death

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.

The man who gunned down Stephanie Shea Graham took the witness stand Wednesday and calmly described how he lured her from Columbus to rural Russell County, shot her twice in the head as she squatted to relieve herself on a dirt road, then shot her four more times in the torso before driving away.

When District Attorney Ken Davis asked Kenneth Walton how killing his 20-year-old friend made him feel, the confessed murderer answered, “I felt normal.”Walton, who has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison, was testifying in the capital murder trial of Lisa Graham, who’s accused of having the family worker kill her daughter as a favor.

Walton said that as he drove away from Shea Graham’s bullet-riddled body, his pickup truck ran over her right arm, but that was inadvertent.

He told the court he lured Shea Graham from Columbus by telling her he could get her a car in which to leave town. Charged with aggravated assault for a drive-by shooting in Columbus, she was due in court the morning after she was killed, her parents having put up a $100,000 bond to get her out of jail.

That was Lisa Graham’s primary motive for wanting her daughter dead, prosecutors said: The mother feared the daughter would flee, causing her parents to lose the bond.

Walton said the mother told him to leave the body in the open where it would be found. A Eufaula truck driver traveling Bowden Road testified he found Shea Graham’s body at 10:12 p.m. Central Time, or 11:12 p.m. Eastern. It was Thursday, July 5, 2007.

Walton testified he had met Shea Graham around dusk that evening at a Victory Drive service station, where she left her car, cell phone and purse with some friends, and rode away with Walton in his truck. They drove down Victory Drive to U.S. 27, then went south to cross the Chattahoochee River near Cottonton, Ala.

After stopping at a service station at Alabama 165 and U.S. 431 to fake making a phone call about the car he’d promised, Walton drove north on 165 to Bowden Road, where he stopped because Shea Graham said she needed to relieve herself, he said.

He urinated first, behind his truck, and retrieved a pistol he’d hidden in the truck bed as he returned to the driver’s seat. Shea Graham then opened the passenger’s door and squatted beside it, and from his seat he shot her in the head before getting out and shooting her again because she kept moving, he said.

He told the jury Lisa Graham had given him the gun earlier that day after meeting him in the genealogy department of the Columbus Public Library, where she asked whether he was ready to kill her daughter, a request she’d made before, he said.

She gave him the keys to her vehicle and told him to take her pistol from the glove compartment and leave her keys under the floor mat, he said. He took the gun and put it under a chain in his truck bed, he said.

After the homicide, he put the pistol under his truck’s passenger seat, drove home to shower, and went to work the next day at a Smiths Station construction company. After a half-day’s work that Friday, he drove to Lisa Graham’s Westside Court home in Phenix City, told her he’d done what she asked, and returned the gun.

That was around 12:30 to 1 p.m. Eastern Time, he said.

While he was there, an elderly neighbor he knew as “Papa” came up in a wheelchair, and when Walton told Lisa Graham her gun needed cleaning, the neighbor volunteered to do it for her, so she gave the gun to him, Walton said.

Davis in his opening statement Wednesday said the Springfield 9mm pistol was crucial evidence of Lisa Graham’s guilt: Tipsters told them to focus on Walton, whom they questioned and arrested. Then they came looking for the gun Walton had told them about.

Lisa Graham told them she did not know where it was, and let them search her home and car before her husband Kevin Graham told the officers he should call the neighbor they knew as “Papa.”

The neighbor said he had the gun, and investigators retrieved it. Ballistics tests matched it to the bullets that killed Shea Graham, Davis said.

When Davis asked Walton why he killed Shea Graham, Walton answered, “Because Lisa asked me to do her a favor.” He said she told him he owed her for covering up an affair Kevin Graham allegedly had with a cousin of Walton’s.

“She said if I ever needed anything, just call her,” he testified.

Graham’s lead attorney Margaret Young Brown said whether Lisa Graham offered Walton anything of value for killing her daughter was a crucial element to the case, because her indictment accuses her of hiring him for the job. Prosecutors must prove that to get a guilty verdict, she said.

She hammered Walton on his testimony that Lisa Graham had been asking him to kill her daughter since he started working for the Grahams on Aug. 19, 2004, soon after he was released from prison in Georgia for dealing cocaine.

“She asked me several times,” Walton said. He said he told her husband about the requests. “He told Lisa that if you want it did, do it yourself,” Walton said.Brown expressed doubt that Walton and the Grahams for years would so casually discuss killing the couple’s daughter.

Davis told jurors they would not find Walton and the Grahams to be typical hometown folks. He said another reason Lisa Graham wanted to kill her daughter was that she suspected Shea and Kevin Graham of having an incestuous affair, and she even told a friend she wanted to kill Shea Graham, saying, “If I could kill her and get away with it, I would. I would pull the f—king trigger.”

Referring to fictional TV families, Davis told the jury: “You’re not going to find these people to be the Waltons or the Cosby family.”

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