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12:32 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Attorney tells jurors of Bocharski's horrific childhood

PRESCOTT ­ Phillip Bocharski's attorney Wednesday told the jury deciding his penalty for murder that his client had "one of the most horrific childhoods."

Bocharski, 44, and his older sister suffered neglect, abandonment and sexual and physical abuse, Tom Kelly said in his opening statement on mitigating evidence in the case.

Their mother, who grew up in a dysfunctional family and suffered sexual and physical abuse, would leave them alone for extended periods without food.

Once "they had peanut butter infested with maggots," Kelly said.

When a social worker placed them in foster care, Kelly said, he wrote, "They were the most neglected children he's ever seen."

The defense is telling the jury about Bocharski's life history in hopes it will spare his life.

On Friday, the jury found that two aggravating factors exist in this case, making Bocharski eligible for the death penalty.

Ten years ago, another jury convicted Bocharski of felony first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 84-year-old Congress woman, Freeda Brown.

At that time, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger sentenced Bocharski to death, but the Arizona Supreme Court overturned his decision because it said Bocharski's lawyers didn't get enough money to collect mitigating evidence for their client.

The state's highest court sent the case back to the trial court to re-conduct the sentencing stage of the trial. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a jury rather than a judge must decide whether a defendant deserves the death penalty.

On Wednesday, Kelly described how Bocharski and his sister were always hungry.

His thin appearance earned him the nickname "Bones." He said the evidence indicates that at least three people molested Bocharski including an uncle, a cousin and a convicted child molester.

Kelly said some evidence shows that Bocharski's mother either gave her son or sold him for $600 to a man, Chuck Below, she met through a mutual friend. He said Below was a child molester who died in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Below admitted to a former mitigating expert that Bocharski came to him at the age of 13 and that he molested him, Kelly said.

"He had a long term sexual relationship with Phillip," Kelly said.

Kelly said Below also admitted that he hurt Bocharski physically.

At the end of his statement, Kelly said, "When you look at this man's life, you'll decide Š that the appropriate sentence will be life."

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Joe Butner reminded the jurors that Bocharski stabbed Brown 16 to 24 times in the head.

"Freeda Brown was the victim of a much more gratuitous crime than was necessary," he said.

He also asked the jury to consider the statements of the victim's 77-year-old daughter, June Brown, and the impact the murder has had on her and her family.

Brown told the jury, "When someone dies violently, you never understand what caused it.

"I just hope you would think of her (the victim) as a person who wasn't ready to die," he said.

Contact the reporter at mburic@prescottaz.com