A Pierce County jury Thursday found a 25-year-old man guilty of murdering his pregnant girlfriend during an argument outside a University Place duplex in 2011.
Jurors, who got the case Wednesday after a week of testimony, convicted Joseph Lester of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Keisha Lewis, 21.
They also found Lester was armed with a deadly weapon at the time, knew Lewis was pregnant and also that the murder was domestic-violence related. Their finding of aggravating factors allows prosecutors to seek a sentence outside the standard range.
Lester is to be sentenced March 8. Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson, who presided over the trial, ordered Lester jailed without bail until sentencing.
He faces a standard range sentence of 161/2 to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors said they would request an exceptional sentence greater than 25 years.
Lester showed little emotion as Cuthbertson read the verdicts. Relatives of Lewis and Lester broke into tears when the verdicts were announced.
The defendant did not deny killing Lewis but testified during trial that he was afraid of her the night he stabbed her because she’d stabbed him in the leg a few weeks before during an argument. He also said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after being a victim of multiple acts of violence himself.
Prosecutors told jurors Lester killed Lewis in cold blood, arguing he should be convicted of first-degree murder. Jurors could not agree on that charge. Prosecutors also pointed out Lester stabbed Lewis multiple times within sight of a car where the couple’s 9-month-old daughter was sitting in a safety seat.
The killing occurred on Halloween in the front yard of a duplex in the 6000 block of 57th Avenue West.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime @TNTadam