A Coconino County jury has found a former Flagstaff woman guilty of murdering her husband in August 2007.
Jessica Riggins, 41, has been found guilty of first-degreee murder in the shooting death of Rusty Riggins. She was also found guilty of auto theft and two counts of credit card theft.
As the verdict was read, Jessica Riggins bowed her head in the standing-room-only gallery in the Coconino County Superior courtroom of Judge Danna Hendrix. Judith Riggins, Rusty's mother, broke into tears and supporters comforted her.
Once proceedings were over, Judith said the verdict will bring "Peace. I'm hoping to get on with my life now. It's been on hold for a year and a half now."
She continued, "I'm excited to see justice done. I love her children to death, but I feel they have a better chance now in life."
Judith said the experience of the trial, which began Jan. 13, has been very hard, especially when attorneys brought up what happened the night her son was shot and killed by Jessica.
"God is the only reason I'm still standing on my feet right now," Judith said.
After the verdict was read and the jury was excused, Jessica was cuffed immediately. The jury will return today at 10 a.m. to determine if Jessica deserves leniency at sentencing.
She faces one of two scenarios: 25 years to life in prison, which means she must serve at least 25 years before she is eligible for release; or natural life in prison, which means she must spend the rest of her life behind bars.
The Coconino County Attorney's Office did not seek the death penalty in the case.
As the jurors entered the courtroom and the verdicts were read, two were visibly shaken and crying.
BODY FOUND AUG. 7, 2007
Rusty's body was found Aug. 7, 2007, in a home in the Boulder Pointe neighborhood of Flagstaff. He had been shot at close range in the side of his back with a .22-caliber handgun Jessica had bought just two days before. The couple had been scheduled to attend divorce proceedings the week police discovered Rusty's body.
Jessica had taken a car belonging to Rusty's mom, driven to California, and visited an ex-husband, her son and her ex-husband's sister before crossing into Mexico. She was arrested about a week later trying to re-enter the country.
During the trial, prosecutors contended that Jessica wanted to get Rusty's probation revoked so he would be jailed and she could get $30,000 she believed he had before they were divorced. She planned the entire scenario that led to her shooting her husband. And if he were in jail during the divorce proceedings, she would request a judge give her that money through a power of attorney she had with Rusty.
She bought a gun at a Flagstaff gun shop two days before she shot Rusty.
The defense had countered that Jessica was a woman who was repeatedly physically abused by Rusty, and he had two felony domestic violence convictions against him involving Jessica. The night she shot her husband, she was acting in self-defense, trying to keep from being hurt or killed, said defense attorneys.
Closing arguments were presented to the jury in Coconino County Superior Court Thursday, and the jury began deliberating Friday afternoon because one of the jurors was unable to continue. That juror was replaced with an alternate.
During the course of the trial, another juror died in a cycling accident. The trial was postponed for half a day so the remaining jurors could attend the funeral.
Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.