Appeals Court Hears Request In Lillelid Case

Wednesday, September 25, 2002
by Bobby Rader News Director

An attorney for one of six young Kentuckians serving life sentences for the 1997 Lillelid murders in Greene County told appeals court judges Tuesday that his client deserves a new trial because her guilty plea was flawed.

Hawkins County attorney John Anderson argued on behalf of Crystal Sturgill before a three-judge panel of the state Court of Criminal Appeals.

Sturgill is the second of the six whose case has reached the appeals court at the post-conviction or second level of appeals in Tennessee's appeals system.
Sturgill pleaded guilty in 1998 - along with the five others - to taking the Lillelid family hostage at a Greene County rest stop before gunning them down and robbing them.
Vidar and Delfina Lillelid and their 6-year-old daughter, Tabitha, were killed while their then 2-year-old son, Peter, survived.

Even though they pleaded guilty, all six members of the group have since filed appeals.

Anderson also argued that Sturgill was on medication for emotional difficulties the day of the plea and she felt pressured to plead guilty because the plea agreement was a package deal that required all six defendants to plead guilty.

In return, they received multiple life sentences.

District Attorney General Berkeley Bell had been seeking the death penalty against the four adult members of the group, including Sturgill.

Anderson also argued that a statement from a co-defendant - that Sturgill stayed in the car while the Lillelids were being gunned down - was wrongly suppressed by a judge in the case.

After the killing, the six fled for Mexico but were stopped before they could cross the border.

Assistant State Attorney General Mark A. Fulks argued that it's clear from Sturgill's testimony before Judge James E. Beckner, that she is articulate and understood what was going on the day she accepted the plea. Beckner had rejected Sturgill's post-conviction petition that contended her attorneys were not competent.