February 18, 2005 - posted at 10:58 a.m. CST updated 5:30 p.m.
Marion, AR - A family may never know why a Region 8 woman killed their daughter. They are certain however she'll be sitting behind bars for life.
Jo Ann Buchanan pled guilty to a lesser charge of first degree murder on Friday in Crittenden County Court for the kidnapping and death of 7 year old Patricia Ann Miles of Gilmore. The little girl was found dead in a soybean field this summer.
Just 2 days ago, this capital murder case was headed for a jury, until, in a surprise move, Buchanan said she wanted to end this ordeal with a plea agreement. With her future now sealed, Buchanan existed the courthouse emotionless. Her attorney James Hensley said his client reached a plea decision after careful thought and consideration of what was in everybody's best interest.
"At this point in her life she is in more of a peaceful situation than she ever has been," said Hensley. "She is an abused spouse and has had a lot of difficulties."
With these court proceedings now over, questions still linger about why Buchanan would have kidnapped and killed the child she babysat quite often.
"She said I'll be frank with you, I just can't remember what happened. I guess she has put it out of her mind, we don't know why," said Hensley.
We do know, however, that Buchanan was not mentally unstable as first thought. At the time of her arrest, she admitted to having a history of depression. But after a recent mental evaluation, Buchanan was found to suffer only from a mild case.
"Other than that, I think there was indications of malingering, which is exaggerating your story for purposes of benefiting your legal defense," said prosecuting attorney Brent Davis.
Despite the events that unfolded in the courtroom, Davis said the state had a strong case, specifically because of eye witness testimony.
"I don't think there would have been anything that would have been a tremendous surprise, it was just a very sad situation," said Davis.
"I believe we had a very good case, and up until she said Jim I'm through with this, I just want to get this over with, we were ready to role that dice," said Hensley.
As for Patricia's family -- a family that's remained quite vocal throughout this tragedy -- on Friday they had little to say about a woman that even they were not willing to put to death.