Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chamberlain off Death Row, resentenced to life in prison


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WEST PALM BEACH — He supplied the gun and the car used in a triple murder. He got more bullets so that the victims could be finished off. And today, John Chamberlain got off Death Row, resentenced to life in prison on a technicality.

"I now vacate the death penalty that was previously imposed on you," Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown told Chamberlain at a court hearing, as family members of two of his victims watched. With that, Chamberlain will be transferred from Death Row to another high-security facility.

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"It just doesn't seem like justice," said Anita Charest of Palm Springs, whose daughter, Charlotte Kenyon, was awakened from her bed, taken to a bathroom and executed.

"He killed my daughter. His parents can visit him. He gets three meals a day now and we pay for it. "He should fry, and I would be right there in front."

Chamberlain and Thomas Thibault were convicted of first-degree murder in separate trials. Both were sentenced to death for the slayings of Kenyon, 26, Bryan Harrison, 21, and Daniel Ketchum, 27, in the West Palm Beach house they shared on Thanksgiving 1998.

A third defendant, Jason Dascott, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released last month and is on probation in Monroe County for the next five years.

Thibault's death sentence was reversed in 2005 on a procedural technicality, and he received life in prison. Now 32, he's serving his sentence at Glades Correctional Institution in Belle Glade.

Chamberlain's attorney then argued that he should receive the same sentence as Thibault, especially since it was Thibault who shot all three victims.

"We all agreed the case law says you can't have disproportionate sentences," said prosecutor Terri Skiles.

Accompanied by Chamberlain and Dascott, Thibault went to the Norton Avenue house intending to sell cocaine to a woman, Amanda Ingman, who lived there with the victims. Once there, the defendants decided to take stolen electronics from the home that Ingman said were kept in a walk-in safe.

Thibault held Harrison and Ketchum at gunpoint while Chamberlain and Dascott robbed the house. When Ketchum rushed him, Thibault shot and killed him.

Chamberlain then urged Thibault to kill Harrison and Kenyon to eliminate witnesses, Ingman told police. Thibault said later that he "emptied the gun" on them, and when Harrison continued breathing, Chamberlain went to the car and got more bullets so he could finish the job.

Like her mother, Kenyon's sister was unhappy that Chamberlain's life was spared. "It's very upsetting," she said. "In my opinion, he's almost more responsible than Tommy. At least Tommy took responsibility for his actions. This man has never taken responsibility for this."

She and other relatives of the victims said they are angry that Ingman was never charged in the crime. Skiles said the men charged with the murders would not cooperate when asked about Ingman, whose boyfriend, Harrison, was one of the people murdered.

Prosecutor Skiles successfully argued that Judge Brown should impose consecutive, not concurrent, life sentences on Chamberlain. Since life carries no possibility of parole, there is no practical distinction. But it does carry a symbolic value, Skiles suggested.

"It makes each life that was taken accounted for by the defendant," she said.

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