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Cheerleader’s Mother Begs for Mercy, Is Sentenced to 15 Years

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A jury on Wednesday sentenced a suburban homemaker to 15 years in prison and fined her $10,000 for trying to hire a hit man to kill the mother of her daughter’s rival for a place on the school cheerleading squad.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of life in prison, the maximum penalty, for Wanda Holloway, 37, of Channelview, Tex., who on Tuesday was convicted of soliciting a murder.

Hours before she was sentenced, Holloway begged the jurors for mercy.

“I think that this trial has been enough punishment for me,” she said, sobbing. “I’m totally humiliated. . . . I would love a second chance.”

The jury deliberated about three hours before issuing the sentence. State District Judge George Godwin then ordered Holloway taken into sheriff’s custody. He said she would serve her sentence in a state prison.

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Holloway hugged her daughter, Shanna, and other relatives before she was escorted from the courtroom. Her attorney said the case will be appealed.

Holloway was convicted of solicitation of capital murder for attempting to hire someone to kill Verna Heath, mother of Amber Heath, Shanna Holloway’s cheerleading rival. The crime carries a penalty of five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Holloway had no previous felony conviction, so she was eligible for five to 10 years of probation instead of prison.

But Assistant Dist. Atty. Mike Anderson told the jurors the only thing worse than Holloway’s crime would have been if Verna Heath and her daughter, Amber, were killed.

“If they were dead, it would be capital murder,” Anderson said. The penalty for capital murder is life in prison or death by injection.

Defense lawyer Troy McKinney advised jurors that they could recommend counseling and community service as conditions of probation.

“By giving Wanda Holloway probation, you’re not saying that what happened to Verna Heath is right,” McKinney said. “She can’t make it right from a prison cell. There’s no way.”

The key witness against Holloway was Terry Harper, her ex-husband’s brother. Harper testified that his former sister-in-law wanted him to find a killer.

He said Holloway believed that killing Amber Heath’s mother would compel the girl to drop out of the cheerleading competition and that would have given Shanna Harper a better chance of making the squad.

Shanna, 14, did not try out after her mother’s arrest in January.


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