Jury Finds Eric Lane Guilty Of Murder In Precious Whitfield Case
Posted July 8, 2005 3:59 a.m. EDT
GOLDSBORO, N.C. — After less than four hours of deliberation, a jury found Eric Lane guilty for the 2002 kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Whitfield.
Whitfield was last seen playing outside her grandmother's home. Her body was later found seven miles away in a creek.
Lane was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and a first-degree sex offense in Whitfield's death. Authorities believe Lane killed Whitfield within a couple of hours of kidnapping her.
"Right now, it's in God's hands. I'm going to let him deal with that. I'm just glad he was found guilty for what he had done for my child," said Michelle Whitfield, Precious' mother.
Whitfield said she was leaving court to visit her daughter's grave and to send her a message.
"We love you and we miss you and we did all this for you to make sure you got your justice," she said. "Can't nobody hurt her now. She's safe."
Lane, who fired his previous attorneys last fall and previously represented himself, told the judge after the verdict that he did not want his attorneys involved during sentencing phase, which is scheduled to begin Monday morning.
Because the jury found Lane guilty of first-degree murder, the same jurors will now have to decide whether to sentence him to life in prison or death.
Last year, Lane's original trial was delayed because of questions about his mental state. A judge later declared a mistrial because of juror misconduct. The case hit another roadblock in May during the jury selection of Lane's second trial when the judge granted Lane's motion to start over with the process.
Precious Whitfield's family has mixed feelings on Lane's punishment. Her grandparents believe he should get life in prison, but the child's mother told WRAL that she wants the death penalty.