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Life Sentence Imposed in Water-Cooler Poisoning

February 12, 1987

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ A man convicted of murdering a woman who drank from an office water cooler he laced with cyanide to kill his wife was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Lewis Allan Harry Jr., convicted in December in the March slaying of Julie Williams, also was sentenced to a total of 105 years on four counts of attempted murder.

Harry also was convicted of trying twice to poison his wife, once through a poisoned bottle of scotch found in their Phoenix home and once through the water cooler in the Tempe insurance company where the victim and his wife worked.

He was found guilty of two additional attempted murder counts because two other co-workers drank from the water cooler.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edmund Noyes said all the sentences are to run consecutively to ensure Harry would not outlive his term

Harry, 33, must serve a minimum of 95 years before becoming eligible for parole, said deputy county attorney Cleve Lynch.

Lynch, who described Harry during the trial as having ice water for blood, had sought the death penalty. But Noyes said the defense showed mitigating circumstances sufficient to warrant leniency in the attempted murders and the death of Julie Williams.

The judge pointed to numerous charactor witnesses who either appeared or wrote letters on Harry’s behalf, and to his work with a number of community organizations.

At the same time, Noyes called the water-cooler poisoning ″a deliberate, purposful and senseless scheme to kill.″

Lynch said it was a fair sentence, but added he believed the death penalty would have been appropriate.

″I’m not going to say what he (Noyes) did was wrong,″ Lynch said. ″But I didn’t think the mitigating circumstances were that significant.″

Richard Steiner, Harry’s attorney, said he reacted to the sentence ″with a great sigh of relief.″

″I think it (the sentence) was appropriate,″ said Steiner, who argued during a pre-sentence hearing against the death penalty. ″I don’t think it especially heinous. After all, he used the same means (cyanide) that the state uses for a supposedly humane means of execution.″

Harry has maintained his innocence.

Steiner said the conviction and sentence would be appealed.

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