Charles Stephenson case: Jury deliberating in trial for man accused of brutal beating death

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. -- A jury has begun deliberation in the trial for a man charged with beating an Aurora, Ind., woman to death in her apartment kitchen more than a year ago.

Closing arguments in the trial of Charles Stephenson were heard Monday morning. Stephenson is accused of killing 67-year-old Leigh Jennings in her Aspen Ridge Drive home on March 29, 2012. Police say he used a pepper grinder and a frying pan as murder weapons.

After Jennings' death, police said Stephenson stole $1,000 in cash from Jennings to repay a debt to one of his family members. Coroner's reports also stated Jennings received multiple skull fractures that resulted in her death.

In their closing arguments, the defense argued that Stephenson and Jennings were friends and "friends don't kill each other."

"Police didn't prove their case. There was no evidence of a disagreement between Leigh and Stephenson.
He's a law abiding citizen. Not a killer," an attorney on Stephenson's defense team said.

Over the last week, the defense argued Stephenson had no motive to steal from, or kill, Jennings, stating he could have just declared bankruptcy. Additionally, Stephenson's defense asserted police were dishonest "from the get-go" with their investigation.

Prosecutors told a different story. In their closing, attorneys said "the defense is trying to confuse the facts."

"Please apply your common sense and life experience to hear this case," prosecutors said. "Stevenson has many problems. He lies...[his finger print] was on the murder weapon. Was he guilty? Yes."

Prosecutors called Jennings' neighbor, Brian Doss to the stand, where he testified about finding Jennings' body on April 5. Worried about Jennings, Doss said he received permission from Jennings' son to enter her home through a window.

It was in the home that Doss said he smelled a rotting odor and found Jennings' body on the kitchen floor.

If convicted, Stephenson could either be given a prison term of up to 115 years or be sentenced to death.

Stephenson is also the nephew of Bill and Peggy Stephenson. The couple, both 74, was killed inside their Florence home on May 29, 2011.

The jury consists of seven women and five men.

Stay with 9 On Your Side and WCPO.com for updates as they become available . Download the WCPO smartphone app and get our push alerts to learn the verdict right as it happens.

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