Woman convicted in stepdaughter's murder

Saturday, October 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Jurors who convicted a woman of beating her mentally retarded stepdaughter to death now must choose between the death penalty and a life sentence.

The jury deliberated for four hours and 40 minutes Friday before finding Keli E. Hargrove, 38, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Christina Hargrove, 21. The victim's body, hog-tied, stuffed in garage bags and burned, was discovered Feb. 23, 1999, in a ditch along a rural Pottawatomie County road.

Jurors will begin hearing evidence in the punishment phase of the trial Monday.

Keli Hargrove admitted during the three-week trial that she killed the victim at their Del City home during a fight about a missing $50. The defendant testified she hit the victim three or four times in the head with an 18-inch rusty fence post.

Keli Hargrove said the victim hit her in the head with a plate and then came after her with the fence post. She claimed she did not mean to kill her stepdaughter.

Dr. Larry Balding, of the state Medical Examiner's Office, said the victim had been hit nine times and was wounded trying to defend herself. Most of the victim's teeth also had been knocked out.

Charles Hargrove, 45, the defendant's husband and victim's father, has pleaded guilty to a charge of accessory to murder for helping hide his daughter's body.

He was given a 10-year prison sentence with all but three years suspended. In exchange, he testified against his wife.