Over the course of about four hours on July 23, 2017, Michelle Marlow was viciously beaten to death at a home on Old Mud Creek Road. Her attackers thought she had taken $300 from them. The money was never found.
The beating was so severe that the mother of nine children and three grandchildren had a closed casket funeral. Her face was unrecognizable, Marlow’s mother, Anna Rigney, told jurors.
On Friday afternoon, Marlow got justice or the closest thing to justice the jury could give her. After about one hour and 40 minutes of deliberations, the jury of seven-men and five-women convicted Chris Lowe, 40, and Lori Mattie, 39, of murder and first-degree unlawful imprisonment in Marlow’s death.
Jurors also convicted Chris Lowe of tampering with physical evidence.
“Thank the Lord for justice,” Angela Muse, one of Marlow’s relatives said after court.
Jurors only needed about 15 minutes of deliberation to recommend the maximum sentence of life in prison for Lowe and Mattie on the murder charge. Jurors also recommended five-year prison sentences for the duo on the unlawful imprisonment charge, and another five-year sentence for Lowe on the tampering with physical evidence charge. Further jurors recommended that the sentences be served consecutively or one after the other.
It was the absolute maximum possible sentence that jurors could recommend.
“I am just glad that the family got the justice that they deserved. It would have been a slap on the wrist anything else. They brutally did that,” noted Troy Lawson, a friend of Marlow who attended the trial.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling, who conducted his first trial as a prosecutor, noted that his office was happy with the outcome.
“The commonwealth prevailed on everything we alleged, but nobody wins. We took two lives for what they did in taking the life of Michelle Marlow. We are very happy the jury paid attention and they agreed with us at the end. Murder cases are not easy. We are just happy to remove two dangerous people from society,” Bowling said.
He described the jury’s punishment as a “statement on behalf of the entire county that this county will not tolerate violent crime, and that Michelle Marlow died for absolutely no reason except for the fact that these people are evil people, who did an evil thing.”
Judge Paul Winchester scheduled formal sentencing in the case for Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.
Bowling noted that the law in Kentucky is that you can’t run any sentence consecutive with a life sentence so Winchester will have to differ slightly from the jury’s recommendation at formal sentencing.
Under Kentucky law, judges can lower a jury’s recommended sentence, but cannot increase it.
Both will be eligible for parole after serving the first 20 years of their sentence.
Bowling pointed out that just because the two are eligible for parole then doesn’t mean that they will receive it.
Each has been incarcerated in the Whitley County Detention Center since their arrest on July 24, 2017, in this case. The time spent behind bars prior to trial will be counted towards their sentences.
Lowe’s attorney, Mike Brophy, declined to comment after the verdict.
Mattie’s lawyer, veteran attorney Cotha Hudson, said only “this was the saddest trial I have ever had.”
Lowe and Mattie turned down plea offers earlier this month that included recommended sentences of 20 years in prison for each defendant.
Marlow, 36, went to the residence of Lowe and Mattie with her boyfriend, Claude Dean, on July 22, 2017, for a night of heavy drinking and relaxation.
The next day, Lowe became upset because he couldn’t find his wallet with $300 inside, which reportedly lead him to threaten Dean and Marlow with a shotgun. Then Lowe and Mattie started beating Marlow, and the trio ended up outside at one point with Marlow laying in the road apparently dead, and Mattie at least partially on top of her.
Lowe’s uncle, Charles Lowe, testified during the first day of the trial Tuesday that he drove by and helped Chris move Marlow’s body out of the roadway. Charles tried to get Chris to call 911, but Chris told Charles that Marlow was just sleeping.
Charles Lowe called 911 after he got home.
Then Kentucky State Police Sgt. Tony Dingess responded to the 911 call, and followed a trail of blood from the road and drag marks to the backdoor of the home. He saw more blood in the kitchen, hallway and guest bathroom, and then found Marlow dead in the guest bedroom. In the master bedroom, Dingess found Lowe naked and unconscious on the bed covered in blood. He found Mattie nearly naked on the toilet in the guest bathroom also covered in blood and unconscious.
Sometime during the altercation Dean escaped. He later sent his mother back to Lowe and Mattie’s residence to pick up Marlow, but she was already dead by that time.