Topeka A man convicted of killing two women and critically injuring a third woman has been sentenced to death.
Shawnee County District Judge Matthew Dowd followed the recommendation of jurors on Friday, saying Phillip D. Cheatham committed a "vicious, cold-blooded series of murders" that deserved the death penalty.
Cheatham was convicted last month of one count of capital murder, two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. Prosecutors said he and another man, who hasn't been identified, opened fire on a Topeka duplex in December 2003, killing Gloria Jones, 42, and Annette Roberson, 38.
A third victim, Annetta Thomas, played dead and survived with 19 gunshot wounds.
The death sentence is for killing Roberson. Cheatham was sentenced to a "Hard 50" for killing Jones.
Though Cheatham had previous convictions for drug charges and voluntary manslaughter, the defense claimed that the prosecution had the wrong man and that Cheatham was on his way to Chicago when the killings occurred.
No date has been scheduled for Cheatham's execution. The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in December 2004, and the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing whether the state's death penalty is constitutional.
As a backup sentence in case the Kansas Supreme Court decision stands, Dowd ordered consecutive sentences totaling 78 years and one month.
"The defendant should not ever see the light of day," Dowd said.
In a statement before the sentence was imposed, Jones' mother, Ellawese Chandler, said she used to oppose the death penalty. But she said she would gladly give Cheatham the lethal injection at his execution.
But Lynda Perry-Grigsby, Cheatham's mother, said her son was innocent and asked for time until information surfaces that would acquit him.
Before the sentencing, Cheatham expressed his condolences to the victims and their families.
"I expect to be vindicated, and the truth will come out," said Cheatham.