By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
MULESHOE — A Muleshoe man charged with capital murder in the deaths of three people including his ex-wife will not face the death penalty, court officials said Wednesday during jury selection at the Bailey County Courthouse.
Larry Kitchens, 52, dressed in a light, white, button-down shirt and jeans, listened intently as his attorney explained to potential jurors the reasons for reasonable doubt and the definition of crimes of passion.
It took about six hours to interview and select a jury from a pool of about 80. All but one said they’d heard something of the October incident in which Kitchens is accused of killing three people at Vince Simnacher’s home about 10 miles south of Muleshoe.
Simnacher, 61, Derwin Wyn Beauchamp, 43, and Kitchens’ ex-wife, Rhonda June Kitchens, 48, died at the scene.
District Attorney Johnny Actkinson would not comment on his reasons for not seeking the death penalty.
Kitchens’ attorney, Richard Wardroup of Lubbock, told jurors that crimes of passion — the defense he’s using to help reduce Kitchens’ sentence — are punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
In Texas, the charge of capital murder applies when a homicide is committed during the commission of another felony or more than two people are killed in the same incident.
The trial begins Wednesday, an unusual week holdout after jury selection that defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed upon because of the scheduling of witnesses, District Judge Gordon Green told jurors.
Green said he never is sure how long trials will last. He said he expects this trial to last three to five days.