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Hyatt found guilty of in murder of fellow square dancer

Published: Feb. 9, 2016 at 4:17 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2016 at 4:17 PM CST
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Patti Wheelington, 59, was found shot to death on the front porch of her Texarkana home back in...
Patti Wheelington, 59, was found shot to death on the front porch of her Texarkana home back in December 2013. (Source: Jerold Jordan)

TEXARKANA, AR (KSLA) - A Texarkana woman has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a fellow square dancer in Miller County.

It took the jury less than an hour Monday night to return a guilty verdict against 67-year-old Virginia Hyatt on a charge of capital murder in the death of 59-year-old Patricia Wheelington.

"We were disappointed, but the verdict notwithstanding, still our respect and regard for the verdict," said defense attorney John Pickett. "It's our system at work and it's the best system in the world."

Still, Pickett says he will be meeting with his client in the next few days to talk about the possibility of appealing.

Wheelington was found shot to death on the front porch of her Texarkana home back in December 2013. She had been shot 5 times, including at least once in the back. Less than 24 hours later, Hyatt was arrested in connection with the death.

During the trial, which began last Tuesday, prosecutors put fellow Guys and Dolls Square Dance Club members on the stand to testify that Hyatt was extremely jealous and blamed Wheelington for the breakup of her marriage. Wheelington was shot just days after Hyatt's husband James moved of of their home.

James Hyatt admitted in court that he had indeed had an affair with Wheelington that began back in 2009.

While Hyatt's defense attorney argued that there was no physical evidence placing her at the crime scene, prosecutors worked during the trial to convince the jury she was in the area at the time, had a motive and knew how to use a gun.

The gun used to shoot Wheelington 5 times, a .38 caliber pistol, has never been recovered. Prosecutors established at trial that Hyatt owned a .38.

While the death penalty is an option with capital murder convictions, prosecutors did not pursue that sentence. Instead, Hyatt received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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