NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A thrice-widowed woman was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in the death of her second husband in 2006 — a complex case that prosecutors in New Orleans said is linked to the unsolved death of her third husband in 2011 in Mississippi.
The verdict came after prosecutors said Emma Raine plotted Ernest Smith's killing with her future third husband, James Raine, who was later shot to death himself in their Poplarville, Mississippi, home. No arrests have been made in James Raine's 2011 death, although authorities say Emma Raine is a suspect.
James Raine's adoptive brother, Alfred "Terry" Everette is serving a life sentence as the trigger man in Smith's death.
The jury's decision was unanimous. Emma Raine faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Formal sentencing is set for Oct. 21. Appeals are planned.
"This is the woman who is destroying the lives of every man around her without a care," Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue told the jury, referring to the two dead husbands and Everette.
Raine had moved to Grain Valley, Missouri, and had married a fourth time, to John W. Golston, when she was arrested and waived extradition to Louisiana in 2013, after a tip to a cold case detective put police on her trail.
Golston, reached by phone Friday night, angrily pronounced his wife the victim of a corrupt Louisiana legal system.
"I think this whole thing was fabricated," he said. "It was a setup. It wasn't right. She didn't have anyone killed and she didn't kill anyone."
He said authorities, in effect, "tried and convicted her before she went to trial" with publicity about the allegations not only about the deaths of husbands two and three, but also about her first husband, Leroy Evans.
In Everette's 2014 trial, Rodrigue said there were suspicions about Evans' 1994 death while he was receiving medical care following an automobile accident. Testimony from that case was not allowed in Raine's trial.
James Raine's family members were in the courtroom for Friday's verdict. They declined comment but handed out a prepared statement thanking police and prosecutors, expressing sympathy for Smith's family and saying they will "pursue closure" in James' death in Mississippi.
Lead defense lawyer Martin Regan at times sounded as though he were defending Emma Raine for two killings, stressing to jurors that no one has been charged in James Raine's death.
Prosecutors say James and Emma Raine arranged for Everette to shoot Smith for a $10,000 share of $800,000 in insurance money. Relatives of Raine testified that Everette told them as much, tearfully and anxiously confessing his role after James Raine turned up dead in 2011.
Everette was convicted in 2014. He's appealing that second-degree murder conviction, which carries a life sentence.
In one of the trial's more dramatic moments, a shackled Everette was brought into the courtroom but refused to approach the witness stand and defiantly refused to answer questions as the jury watched.
Regan argued that James Raine and Everette plotted Smith's death without involving Emma. He called no witnesses, instead choosing to attack elements of the prosecution case. He noted that no eyewitnesses or physical evidence connected Emma to Smith's death in an all-but deserted eastern New Orleans apartment complex months after Hurricane Katrina.
He also noted that witnesses said Everette told them he was never paid from the insurance proceeds. Regan argued that James was afraid to ask his wife for the money because he didn't want to tell her it was for her second husband's killer.
Regan cast Smith and James Raine as less-than-ideal mates, saying both were adulterous, that James had seduced Emma during her troubled marriage to Smith and that he plotted with Everette — without Emma's involvement — to kill Smith. Rodrigue said there was no evidence introduced of Smith's adultery.
Prosecutors said Emma Raine was devious.
Jurors also heard that Emma Raine, upon learning that Smith's daughter, Queentene Jefferson, was in line to receive some of Smith's insurance benefit, had her own daughter forge documents, using Jefferson's name, to make Emma the beneficiary.