UPDATE: Manning jury ended deliberations for the day shortly after 6 p.m. They will resume work at 9:30 Thursday morning.
After six days of testimony, the Internet romance case of accused killer Theodore Manning was sent to a Richland County jury today shortly after 1 p.m.
Manning, 30, has been charged with murder in the May 2009 shooting death of Charlotte airlines employee Nikki McPhatter.
After he shot and killed McPhatter during an angry argument at his Bluff Road house, Manning confessed to the jury, he and another girlfriend drove McPhatter’s car — with her body stuffed in the trunk — to a rural Fairfield County site.
There, they burned the car and body, Manning testified Tuesday.
But Manning blamed girlfriend, Kendra Goodman, for manipulating him into disposing of the body and burning it.
If convicted of murder, Manning could get from 30 years in prison to life from Judge Thomas Cooper. Manning will not be eligible for parole if found guilty of murder.
Cooper told the jury they also could consider the defense of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a penalty ranging from two to 30 years.
During closing arguments this morning, 5th Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese told the jury that Manning had told “lie after lie” to cover up a crime spree that included killing McPhatter “execution-style,” burning her body, not telling authorities and using her ATM cards to clean out her bank accounts.
Luke Shealey, assistant 5th Circuit public defender for Manning, told the jury that murder is not the proper charge and it should find Manning either guilty of voluntary manslaughter or not guilty due to self defense. Shealey reminded the jury that, according to Manning’s testimony, McPhatter had attacked Manning in his home.
There were no witnesses to the shooting. McPhatter died of a single gunshot wound to the right back of her head.
Shealey also warned the jury that Giese and his deputy solicitor Luck Campbell, who also made a jury argument, were trying to manipulate the jury.
“They know how to instill passion in a jury, prejudice, hate — they want to make you hate Theodore Manning,” Shealey said.
Manning and McPhatter met each other on the Internet site, Tagged.com, in February 2009. McPhatter, 30, who lived in Charlotte, had sporadic dates, mostly at her apartment in Charlotte, but they had no mutual friends. McPhatter’s friends knew only she was seeing someone who lived in South Carolina.
Consequently, when McPhatter went missing in early May 2009, all her friends knew was that she was seeing someone named Teddy.
Testimony during the trial by Charlotte and Richland County detectives told a story of how, over three weeks, officers cracked the case by using both old-fashioned investigative techniques, such as repeated interviews with subjects, to high-tech methods such as tracing McPhatter’s and Manning’s movements on the day she was killed by using cell phone towers.