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Teen Found Guilty in Lynching

January 29, 1999

CLEARFIELD, Pa. (AP) _ After deliberating for less than three hours, a jury found a 16-year-old girl guilty of killing a learning-disabled teen-ager so she wouldn’t tattle about a plan to run away to Florida.

The jury found Jessica Holtmeyer guilty of murder, aggravated assault, and conspiracy in the killing of Kimberly Dotts, 15.

``We got what we wanted: justice for Kimmy,″ the victim’s grandmother, Judy Fuleno, said outside court Thursday.

Ms. Holtmeyer could get life in prison. Prosecutors dropped their plans to seek the death penalty at the request of Kimberly’s family.

``We didn’t feel she should get the death penalty,″ said Jodi Dotts, Kimberly’s mother. ``When you’re on death row, you’re there so long with nothing to bother you. In jail, she’ll be with the murderers and rapists.

``We thought the death penalty would be too easy for her.″

Kimberly was hoping to make friends when she was invited to sleep over at another teen-ager’s house last May. But she found herself in the woods with a group of kids she barely knew who were planning to run away to Florida.

Someone complained that Kimberly might snitch on them. A noose was pulled over her head, the other end slung over a maple branch, and Ms. Holtmeyer and 18-year-old Aaron Straw yanked on the rope with all their strength, witnesses said.

Then, witnesses said, after Kimberly’s body dropped to the ground, Ms. Holtmeyer smashed the girl’s face with a basketball-sized rock.

Dawn Lanager, 15, told the jury that Ms. Holtmeyer laughed after the hanging and later said she wanted to ``cut Kim up, scatter her all over the woods and keep one of her fingers as a souvenir.″

Straw also testified against Ms. Holtmeyer, after District Attorney Paul Cherry said he would consider not asking for the death penalty against him. Ms. Lanager and two other teens who testified had murder charges against them dropped, and their cases were handled in the juvenile system.

Ms. Holtmeyer’s attorney, Bryan S. Walk, said the teens were liars who traded outlandish stories for lesser charges.

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