Convicted of capital murder for persuading a family friend to gun her daughter down on a remote dirt road in Russell County on July 5, 2007, Lisa Leanne Graham was sentenced to the death penalty.
After a jury convicted her March 5, Judge Jacob Walker III initially set a sentencing date of May 1, but then postponed it so Graham could have a psychological evaluation. Walker noted then that Graham had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was taking medications prescribed for schizophrenia.
Wednesday’s sentencing is not the end of the story, as Graham is expected to appeal, a process that will add new chapters to what even veterans of the criminal justice system found to be a sordid and surreal story of a mother whose jealousy and disdain for her daughter led to a cold-blooded murder on an isolated Russell County road.
Graham was accused of persuading longtime family worker Kenneth Walton to kill daughter Stephanie Shea Graham, who went by Shea. Walton said the mother met him at the Columbus Public Library that day and loaned him her pistol for the job.
He caught up with Shea at a Victory Drive gas station, where she left her car with friends and rode off in Walton’s pickup truck. He took her on a long, night drive down Alabama Highway 165 before pulling off on Bowden Road so they could relieve themselves.
When she got out to squat beside the truck’s open passenger door, he pulled out the pistol and shot her in the head from the driver’s seat, then got out, walked around the truck and shot her again and again.
He left her half-nude body where it lay, and drove away. Asked in court how his deadly betrayal of a young woman who trusted him made him feel that night, he replied, “I felt normal.”
Because witnesses saw Shea leave the gas station with Walton, investigators focused on him immediately. He confessed, and told them of the mother’s involvement, particularly of the pistol he had returned to her the next day.
Lisa Graham further incriminated herself when authorities came looking for the gun. She had given it to an elderly neighbor she knew as “Papa” to clean, but told sheriff’s investigators she didn’t know where it was, and allowed them futilely to search her house before her husband told them “Papa” might have it.
Finding ample evidence of her involvement in the homicide, they charged her with murder. Russell County District Attorney Ken Davis said the circumstances warranted the death penalty