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Jury Assesses Death Penalty In Murder-For-Hire

August 11, 1993

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) _ A 20-year-old honor student convicted in the contract killing of a Fort Worth socialite was sentenced to death Wednesday.

Jeffrey Dillingham trembled as State District Judge Bob Gill accepted and read the jury’s verdict for capital punishment. His parents, fiance and supporters embraced and cried loudly.

Jack Koslow, who had survived the attack on his wife, Caren, swallowed and blinked as the sentence was read. He left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

Tarrant County Prosecutor Alan Levy said the jury’s decision was based on the brutality of the case.

″It’s unfortunate,″ Levy said. ″When someone gets the death penalty, it’s not a success for the justice system. It indicates a failure somewhere in society.″

Levy said the remaining two defendants, the Koslows’ daughter Kristi, 18, and her boyfriend, Brian Salter, 21, also would be prosecuted as capital murder cases, although no dates have been set.

Prosecutors accuse Miss Koslow of offering Salter and his friend $1 million to kill her father and stepmother.

Police said she wanted both killed so she could collect what she believed would be a $12 million inheritance.

The assailants fatally beat Mrs. Koslow with a pry bar and slashed the throat of the 40-year-old socialite. Koslow, 49, an ex-banker, was wounded but survived the March 1992 attack at his home.

Texas law gave the jury just two punishment choices: lethal injection or life in prison. A defendant assessed life must serve at least 35 years behind bars. The same panel had convicted Dillingham Saturday.

In closing arguments, Levy branded Dillingham as the evil perpetrator of a ″methodical, careful slaughter.″

″His conscience was in his purse,″ he said.

″The facts are the facts, and the facts - ugly and brutal as they are - are what bring us to this stage,″ Levy said.

Defense attorney Jack Strickland urged leniency because Dillingham has no prior criminal record.

Strickland’s closing argument pointed to psychologists’ testimony that Dillingham is easily manipulated and probably would not pose a danger to anyone in prison.

″I make no bones about this: I ask you for the life of Jeffrey Dillingham,″ Strickland said. ″I do it with no qualifications, no reservations.″

But Levy said Dillingham assembled a ″death kit″ of guns, a pry bar and bulletproof vest and deserved no pity.

Most damaging to the defense was a 37-minute statement Dillingham gave police 12 days after the attack. In it, he acknowledged hitting the couple and stealing Koslow’s wallet.

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