WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. - Prosecutors said the motive for murder was money, this morning the jury said guilty. A Johnson City man, Dale Larkin, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his wife.
It's the day Tia Gentry had convinced herself would never come. Today, a Washington County jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother nearly seven years ago.
After more than 12 hours of deliberation spread across three days, the jury said guilty to First Degree Murder and Insurance Fraud.
It's a conviction that essentially puts 55-year-old Dale Larkin behind bars for the rest of his life. He will be 106 before he's eligible for parole. "I really didn't think they would convict him, be guilty, I though it would be not guilty it's been too long," said Tia Gentry.
Teri Larkin was killed in a bathtub in their Johnson City home in 2003. A previous district attorney ruled the death an accident, but Teri Larkin's family kept pushing for more.
A second autopsy in 2009 found broken bones that led to charges against Dale Larkin. "Police department and Steve Sherffey, I can't say enough about what he did, with out him we wouldn't have known the case was there to work on, it had been closed and done with," said district attorney Tony Clark.
The district attorney says the case was one of the hardest he's ever presented because of what they didn't have, including a crime scene. Police were not called to the home.
Teri Larkin was taken to the hospital when her daughter found her unresponsive. Prosecutors only had four pictures of the bathtub taken days later to show the jury.
Most of the trial was based on forensic expert testimony from both sides. "Probably the toughest trial I've ever had and that includes (Howard Hawk) Willis," said Tony Clark. Tia Gentry's family says justice has been served for the young girl's mother." We are so thankful to them for sticking with it, they could have easily have given up," said Janie Gentry Berning. Prosecutors say it will be up to a civil court to determine what happens to Larkin's share of more than a million dollars in life insurance money he collected.
The court previously split the money with Teri Larkin's daughter. Larkin was immediately taken to jail.
The judge denied a motion for bail after his attorney announced plans to appeal.