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Attorney Convicted in Disappearance of Wealthy Woman

February 8, 1990

....................................................................... (AP) _ A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a Florida attorney in the 1988 disappearance of a Jacksonmultimillionaire’s wife.

The jury found Newton Alfred Winn, 65, guilty of one count each of conspiracy to kidnap, extortion and perjury around 6 p.m. after about 3 1/2 of deliberations.

Winn sat impassively as the jurors were polled.

In closing arguments earlier in the day, the prosecution said the St. Petersburg, Fla., attorney blamed his financial woes on Annie Laurie Hearin’s husband.

″He had a motivation of revenge,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Bennett said after telling jurors jury how and why the government claimed Winn abducted the woman on July 26, 1988.

Defense attorneys said the government has the wrong man. John Collette, one of Winn’s attorneys, said an appeal was likely.

Winn is accused of conspiracy in having a ransom letter mailed from Atlanta on Aug. 11, 1988. He also is charged with extortion and lying to a federal grand jury about his knowledge of the case. No one has been charged with actually abducting Mrs. Hearin.

The 74-year-old Mrs. Hearin, wife of Robert Hearin, hasn’t been seen since she disappeared from her Jackson home following a bridge party with friends. Doctors have said the woman had a health problem that required daily medication.

After the verdict was read, the woman’s son, Robert Hearin Jr. said the family had been informed that the search for Mrs. Hearin was still active.

″The investigation into whatever happened to my mother is continuing, and on that basis, I am pleased with the result reached today.″

U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee gave final instructions to the jurors, explaining each of the three counts of the indictment against Winn.

On hand for instructions and final arguments were two key government witnesses: Don Ward, who once worked for Winn; and Marilyn Taylor, who describes herself as a one-time lover of the defendant and who has testified that she mailed a letter which prosecutors say was a ransom note.

A splattering of blood was found on the front door of the Hearin home along with another ransom note demanding that Hearin reimburse 12 individuals, including Winn, for losses they suffered in dealings with School Pictures of Mississippi Inc., a firm in which Winn was once a primary stockholder.

Winn ″blamed Mr. Hearin for all of his problems with School Pictures,″ Bennett said.

″This case is about the kidnapping of Annie Laurie Hearin,″ Bennett said. ″This case is about this defendant conspiring to kidnap her. This case is about this defendant causing a letter to be mailed from Atlanta for the return of Mrs. Hearin. This case is about this defendant. . . lying under oath.″

Defense Attorney Ed Marger, describing the case as having a ″Perry Mason scenario,″ charged that the government based its case on questionable witnesses and physical evidence that prosecutors later attempted to downplay.

During seven days of testimony, jurors were treated to a soap opera-style plot that included a two-state love affair between Winn, 65, and Taylor, 29, of De Land, Fla. Taylor testified she disguised herself and mailed the ransom note, and said she and Winn once plotted to kill her former husband, Mark Phillips.

In his closing arguments, Marger repeatedly attacked the credibility of Taylor, who testified after receiving immunity from prosecution.

He also said tapes of converstions between Winn and Taylor made by the FBI and introduced into the trial revealed nothing other than the defendant saying such things as, ″I don’t know what you are talking about.″

Marger said: ″The truth is what this case is all about, but so is proof.″

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