A 12-year-old girl returned to her east Cobb County home to find her mother and her 14-year-old brother hacked to death with a hatchet.
And the man guilty of killing them, allegedly after blaming the family for his hard times, appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence.
But on Monday, the state’s highest court unanimously denied Mr. Lawrence Rice’s appeal.
“The evidence presented at trial was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find Rice guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all counts,” the opinion says.
The following details on the April 17, 2003 murders of Mrs. Connie Mincher and her son, Ethan, were obtained from the court file on the case:
That day 12-year-old Marlee Mincher arrived home from school to find her brother lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Unresponsive but still breathing, Ethan had duct tape on his mouth and handcuffs attached to one wrist.
Marlee then rushed into her parents’ bedroom where she found her mother lying face down on the bed with her hands duct-taped behind her back. Duct tape was also wrapped tightly around her neck and a bloody rug covered her head.
Marlee then ran to her bedroom and called 911. It was unclear how long the mother and son were lying in their own blood before the girl arrived.
Mrs. Mincher was declared dead at the scene and her son died later at the hospital.
“A medical examiner testified at trial that the wounds of both mother and son were consistent with having been struck repeatedly with a hatchet,” according to the court report.
“Mrs. Mincher had suffered at least five blows to her head, and her skull had been fractured and pushed into her brain. Ethan had also suffered blows to his skull as well as two blows to his back, which broke his ribs.”
The family’s next-door neighbor told police she had seen when Mrs. Mincher arrived home around 2 p.m. She also saw a champagne or gold colored car parked in the family’s driveway about 20 to 30 minutes later.
She said a man, later identified as Mr. Lawrence Rice, got out of the vehicle and removed what appeared to be a tool box from the back. He then went into the house. About 20 minutes later, Ethan arrived home.
About 20 minutes after that, she watched Mr. Rice quickly exit the home and drive away.
Other witnesses had seen Mr. Rice and his older model gold Mercedes in the neighborhood the weeks before the murders.
The description of the car struck a chord with Mr. Trevor Mincher, the victims’ husband and father. He had a history with the car’s owner.
In 1990, Mr. Mincher’s company, Videotape Associates, had hired Mr. Rice to work as a maintenance engineer, but the man resigned six months later after learning another employee earned a higher salary.
Mr. Rice subsequently wrote letters to Mr. Mincher and others, saying the man had “blackballed” him and thwarted his efforts to find another job in the video industry.
Eventually, Mr. Rice lost his home and was living in his car. He began calling Mr. Mincher at home, mostly around the holidays.
“Mincher also told police he’d once received a Christmas card from Rice depicting an angel with a blackened eye and blood dripping from its wings. The card said the “curse of Akbar” would be on the Mincher family.”
A friend also discovered Mr. Rice’s detailed plan to murder the Mincher family with a hatchet after borrowing his computer.
Mr. Rice admitted to being at the home, but denied killing. But the jury didn’t believe him and he was given two death sentences plus 20 years in prison for murder and burglary a month later.
“[c]onsidering both the murders in this case and Rice as a defendant, we find that the death sentences imposed were not disproportionate punishment within the meaning of Georgia law,” the opinion says.
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