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Wilco jury sentences Steven Allen Thomas to death

A Williamson County jury sentenced a man to death Friday for the murder of a 73-year-old woman 34 years ago.
Steven Allen Thomas

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- A Williamson County jury sentenced a man to death Friday for the murder of a 73-year-old woman 34 years ago.

Steven Thomas is the first person to be sentenced to death in Williamson County in 15 years.

The jury came back late Monday afternoon with Thomas' guilty capital murder verdict. The jury deliberated for more than eight hours Friday before they sentenced Thomas.

In the week-long trial prosecutors proved Thomas killed Mildred McKinney at her South Williamson County home early on the morning of Nov. 4, 1980.

Thomas was working as a bug exterminator and was hired by McKinney. After doing the job, he latered returned to rob, rape, and murder McKinney.

"This is the stuff of nightmares," Assistant District Attorney Lytza Rojas told the jury. "She should have been safe, in her home, and instead she was beaten to the point that her teeth were protruding through her cheek."

Thomas' semen was discovered on a ribbon tied to McKinney's finger. That DNA evidence, along with a fingerprint on a bedroom clock, was enough to convince the jury.

Defense lawyers tried to argue that DNA evidence isn't an exactly science, but were unsuccessful.

McKinney's grandson Bob Stapleton was just 12 when she died. He sat through the trial, calling it nearly unbearable.

"It's sheerly unprecedented in its brutality, and I say that not from someone who has experienced it for so long but from someone who learned of it just last week," he said.

Thomas stood expressionless as the judge read the verdict against him.

He now potentially faces the death penalty -- and will be back inside the courthouse Tuesday to see what punishment the jury decides on.

Background:

In June 2012, DNA evidence and a fingerprint at the scene linked Thomas to the murder.

Police in Dallas and Austin interviewed Thomas after the murder, but he claimed to not know McKinney and denied sexually assaulting and killing her. Henry Lee Lucas, accused of killing hundreds in the 1960s and 1970s, previously confessed to the crime, but the DNA evidence and fingerprints proved otherwise.

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