Jan. 24—A jury in Ohio County recommended a Muhlenberg County woman and a Bowling Green man each serve 20 years in prison last week, after a lengthy trial involving a 1999 fatal fire.
Jurors convicted Virginia Whitfield, 57, of Drakesboro, and Tony A. Lear, 62, of complicity to commit murder, complicity to commit first-degree arson and two counts of complicity to commit first-degree assault in the October 1999 fire.
The fire, which was at Whitfield’s home on Tanner Lane in Beaver Dam, resulted in the death of Autumn Raymond, 4. Raymond died of her injuries four days after the fire. Autumn Raymond’s siblings, Tyler Raymond and Raquel Raymond, were injured in the fire.
Lear, Whitfield and Bobby F. Napier, 49, were all initially charged with murder, arson and first-degree assault, after a 2012 review of open cases by the Kentucky State Police resulting in new information.
Napier pleaded guilty in 2019 to amended charges of second-degree arson, in exchange for a 10-year sentence.
Napier was already serving time on a variety of convictions, including burglary, theft and being a persistent felony offender. The arson sentence runs concurrent with the sentences he is already serving.
Napier, who testified during the trial, has been in prison since 2006, and is incarcerated at Bell County Forest Camp. Napier will become eligible for parole in April, according to information from the Department of Corrections.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Blake Chambers said the jury recommended Whitfield and Napier each serve 20 years in prison on the complicity to commit murder conviction, 20 years on the complicity to arson conviction and 10 years on each of the complicity to commit first-degree arson convictions.
The sentences will run concurrently for total of 20 years in prison.
Whitfield and Lear must serve 85% of their sentences before being eligible for parole.
“We are obviously very happy to get justice for the child who was the victim, and the family,” Chambers said Monday.
Chambers said he could not discuss the case in depth until after final sentencing. Both Whitfield and Lear are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24.
Owensboro attorney Steven Boling, who represented Whitfield, said Whitfield plans to appeal the sentence. Whitfield, Boling said, sustained injuries attempting to rescue one of the children during the fire.
Boling said prosecutors presented evidence during the trial of sheets behind a clothes dryer with a petroleum substance as evidence of arson.
Boling said a defense expert testified the chemicals on the sheet could have come from household products not associated with a deliberate fire.
Boling said he felt jurors believed Napier’s testimony against Whitfield.
“He testified there was a plan, and at least my client was in the room when the plan was discussed,” Boling said.