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Teen guilty in Mississippi school-shooting rampage

Police escort Woodham to the Hattiesburg courthouse Thursday  
June 12, 1998
Web posted at: 11:33 p.m. EDT (0333 GMT)

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (CNN) -- Rejecting an insanity defense, a Mississippi jury found 17-year-old Luke Woodham guilty Friday night of two counts of murder and seven counts of aggravated assault for a shooting spree last October at Pearl High School.

Woodham was accused of killing two classmates -- ex-girlfriend Christina Menefee, 16, and her friend Lydia Dew, 17 -- and wounding seven others during the attack, the first of a series of deadly mass shootings at U.S. schools. Jurors deliberated about five hours before returning their verdict.

Judge Samac Richardson immediately sentenced Woodham to two consecutive life sentences for the murder convictions and seven 20-year sentences for the aggravated assault convictions.

After being sentenced, Woodham spoke briefly to the court.

"I am sorry for the people I killed and hurt. The reason you see no tears anymore is because I've been forgiven by God," Woodham said.

"If they could have given the death penalty in this case, I deserve it."

The mother of one of the girls stood up in court and said, "You have stolen from me. ... You have stolen any chance I will ever (have) to hold grandchildren."

Last week, a separate jury in Philadelphia, Mississippi, convicted Woodham of murdering his mother, 50-year-old Mary Woodham, who was beaten and stabbed. He was sentenced to life in prison for that killing, which prosecutors say happened several hours before the attack at Pearl High.

Woodham confessed to shooting his classmates, but said he did not remember killing his mother. Defense attorneys argued in both trials that Woodham was legally insane at the time of the slayings. The school-shootings trial began Tuesday.

Woodham describes killing his mother
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vxtreme Luke Woodham's confession to the Pearl, Mississippi, police

Tearful Woodham: 'I'm so sorry'

On Friday, the defense rested its case after Woodham completed his testimony. He began in a calm, restrained mood, but, by the final minutes, he had broken down into sobs. He apologized for his actions and acknowledged they were unjustified.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," he sobbed. "It wasn't me. I didn't want to do it."

Woodham said revenge against Menefee was the primary motivating factor behind the school shootings. He said he was devastated when Menefee broke up with him a year earlier.

"I didn't eat. I didn't sleep. I didn't want to live," he sobbed. "It destroyed me."

Egged on by alleged cult member

Woodham also insisted that his friend, Grant Boyette, encouraged him to murder his mother and Menefee during more than five hours of telephone conversations on the day before the murders.

Boyette, 19, and several other alleged members of a cult-like group known as "the Kroth" have been charged with conspiracy in the school shootings.

Jurors watch Woodham's taped confession  

Woodham testified that Boyette pushed him on with insults, calling him "gutless ... [and saying that] he had never done nothing."

"The reason all this happened is that I was heartbroken," Woodham said. "I could have gotten over it, but Grant wouldn't let me ... he told me I had to kill my mama ... I had to get my revenge on Christina."

"I shot Christina," Woodham said. "I never really knew why the others got shot. It just happened."

But under cross-examination, Woodham admitted that his desire for revenge against his ex-girlfriend outweighed Boyette's influence. When asked to explain why he did Boyette's bidding, he replied: "acceptance."

Prosecutor John Kitchens suggested that most of Woodham's problems -- the breakup with his girlfriend, his lack of friends and his problems with his parents -- were common to most teen-age boys.

The prosecution rested its case against Woodham on Thursday morning, closing with a videotaped confession the teen gave less than an hour after the shootings.

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