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The verdict sounds like a punch line, but two lives are over as a result. Not guilty of murder, but guilty of scaring a grandmother to death, 20 year-old Larry Whitfield will be facing a life sentence from the verdict handed down in a North Carolina courtroom on Friday.
While running from police after a bungled bank robbery attempt, Whitfield broke into the home of 79 year-old Mary Parnell in September of 2008. According to reports, Whitfield did not physically harm Parnell, but had her sit in a chair in her bedroom. The federal jury found that the shock and fear of experience caused a massive heart attack. Parnell was dead when her husband found her hours later.
Parnell's family was satisfied with the verdict. Son-in law David Hains said "My mother-in-law had a heart attack right in front of this guy, and he didn't even have the decency to call an ambulance."
When the case came to national attention back in January, many reports predicted prosecutors would rely the on felony murder rule to hold Whitfield responsible for murder. Under this rule, any death caused by a perpetrator of a violent class of crimes such as robbery, rape, or kidnapping can be found responsible for a death even if he did not directly cause it. The law reasons that if you are attempting a dangerous and illegal act such as robbery, it is forseeable that some person involved could be fatally harmed. According to the Huffington post, Whitfield was found guilty of kidnapping Parnell and her death occurred as a result of that crime. A life sentence is mandatory.
Whitfield had no prior record and was a high school graduate.