Jurors found Denise Elverious Miller guilty of murdering off-duty Little Elm police officer Jonathan Wayne Irby after a few hours of deliberation Wednesday afternoon.
Miller, 40, of Little Elm, was sentenced to 62 years in prison for killing Irby on Dec. 9, 2004. She will be eligible for parole in 31 years. She faced a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum of time served while in jail and parole. It is not a capital case, so she could not receive the death penalty.
Irby and Miller had an on-and-off relationship for two years that had begun to sour, according to court testimony.
Miller pleaded not guilty at the trial that began Monday in the 16th District Court in Denton. Her attorneys asked jurors to determine if her actions were intentional and deliberate and sought parole without jail time.
"The question comes down to the culpable mental state or intent," local defense attorney Jamie Beck said.
Beck directed jurors to eliminate emotion from their decision.
"Take the sadness out," she said.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, both Miller and Irby's families listened to closing remarks together in the crowded courtroom and then grieved separately in the hallways.
Resolution to the case drew near after almost 20 months of waiting, and emotions shook some family members as loved ones held them close.
The case impacted the Little Elm Police Department as well. Employees who were Irby's friends and officers who served alongside him were called to testify Tuesday. Little Elm Police Chief Waylan Rhodes and officer Rex Lollar, who investigated the shooting as a detective, were in the audience during Wednesday's closing remarks.
Local defense attorney Denver McCarthy told jurors that a harsh sentence would not balance the scales.
"We're afraid that you're going back there (to deliberate), and you'll say that there's a dead body and somebody has to pay for that," McCarthy said.
Officers found Irby's body in a rental home Dec. 10, 2004, in Little Elm. He had been shot in the back of the head the night before while adjusting a thermostat.
Miller admitted to shooting Irby that night in one of three notes.
"We had a note at the scene from the defendant that stated she had killed Officer Irby," Texas Ranger Tracy Murphree said Wednesday.
Miller wrote and left that note in the house and then went to a Gainesville hotel where she wrote another note and shot herself in a suicide attempt. The injuries have impaired her vision in one eye and confined her to a wheelchair.
Murphree said the .25 caliber pistol in her possession in the hotel room was the same gun used to shoot Irby and that investigators found the same type of ammunition at her house that was used to kill Irby.
He added that he had interviewed Miller at a Gainesville hospital shortly after Irby's death, and she had denied everything.
In the third note, Miller wrote that the shooting was an accident and that she "freaked out" and ran.
Her defense maintained that her actions were not pre-meditated.
"No one said, 'If I can't have him, no one will.' That's a leap as big as the Grand Canyon," McCarthy said.
According to the state, Irby had indicated he was ready to leave the relationship but was willing to give it one more try.
"He gave it a second chance," assistant district attorney Paige McCormick said, adding that Irby had set a deadline of Dec. 17, 2004, for things to improve.
"It got so bad that he moved it (the deadline) up," McCormick said.
The prosecution said the shooting was not an accident, but a crime of passion.
"It was a crime of twisted love. She sat at his bar while he bled and twitched," McCormick said. "This was a man that she had hung some hopes on. 'We're going down together.'"