GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the murder conviction given to a Gwinnett County woman who killed her adoptive mother in 2006.
Catherine O'Connell and her sister Brenda were found guilty in October 2008 of strangling their mother Muriel to death. Catherine appealed her conviction and life prison sentence to the state's high court; that appeal was rejected Tuesday.
Muriel O'Connell adopted Catherine from a Guatemalan orphanage when she was 11. Muriel adopted Brenda from the same orphanage a few years later.
According to information presented at trial, the sisters quickly bonded, while their relationship with their mother deteriorated. Murial even confided to friends that she believed her daughters tried to poison her by putting diethyl ether in her vodka bottle.
On Aug. 6, 2006, Brenda tied a sash around her neck and ran to a neighbor's house, claiming her mother tried to choke her. The neighbor went to the sisters' house, where he found Muriel dead on the bathroom floor with a butcher knife in her hand.
The girls claimed Muriel strangled Brenda and Catherine intervened, grabbing her mother around the neck and causing her to faint. An autopsy later revealed Muriel sustained multiple head injuries and died of strangulation.
Investigators also determined Brenda was never choked. Catherine had minor scrapes and bite marks that she claimed her mother gave her, but a medical examiner who evaluated the girls said the wounds were self-inflicted.
Both girls were 15 years old when they killed their mother. Brenda later admitted she staged the scene by placing the knife in Muriel's hand.
In her appeal, Catherine O'Connell said the trial court failed to present evidence of her traumatic childhood in the Guatemalan orphanage, which she claimed gave her PTSD. She also said the state racially discriminated by striking a potential juror during jury selection.
The Supreme Court of Georgia rejected both contentions.
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