A Fayette County jury recommended Mark Adam Cave serve 25 years in prison for beating his mother to death and hiding her body in a Herbie trash container.
Eight days after his trial began, the jury convicted Cave, 29, of murder, tampering with physical evidence and fraudulent use of a credit card. He was accused of killing Sharon Cave Howard, 54, hiding the Herbie in a wooded area on Trade Center Drive and using her Social Security benefits for months after her death.
Cave was motionless as Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell read the guilty verdict, but he burst into heavy sobs when she read the jury's recommendation of 25 years behind bars.
The jury could have sentenced Cave to life in prison.
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The lead attorney for Cave, Brad Clark, said he did not want to comment on the case until Cave was sentenced. Bunnell scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 28.
Cave's attorneys had argued the killing followed a lifetime of torment by his crack-addicted mother, who was bipolar, depressed and showed signs of schizophrenia. She was diagnosed when Cave was 12.
Cave, who took the witness stand Monday, said he didn't remember details of the killing because he had taken synthetic drugs and a handful of his mother's anxiety medication in an attempt to kill himself.
He and his mother lived together and fought constantly, but his suicide attempt followed a particularly heated argument.
However, prosecutors questioned Cave at length about the seemingly methodical steps he took to cover up the killing — including concealing the Herbie — casting doubt on Cave's contention that he didn't mean to kill his mother and didn't remember doing it.
The jury found Cave guilty of wanton murder, meaning they didn't think the killing was intentional. The potential penalties for wanton murder are no different than those for intentional murder — 20 years to life. Before to the jury decided on a sentence, prosecutors and defense attorneys took one last chance to talk to them.
Defense attorney Rodney Barnes thanked the jury for ruling the murder was not intentional. That "show's he's not a monster," he said.
Barnes asked for the most lenient sentence of 20 years, saying Cave's case was unique in the nearly 20 years he's been a public defender.
"I've represented monsters ... people who would put a bullet in your head or your child's head for just a few dollars," he said.
Cave isn't like that, Barnes said.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn did not ask for a specific sentence, but she told the jury to set one that was fair punishment for "the worst kind of crime."
She asked them to look past the extensive testimony about Cave's troubled childhood and drug addiction.
Cave was 27 years old when he killed his mother, "old enough to make his own way in life, no matter how his life began," she said.
"He made his choices. He chose drugs, he chose crime, he chose violence," Red Corn said. "Every child that has a disadvantaged past doesn't end up like Mark Cave."