Originally created 05/11/04

Arrington gets death in slaying



For his first killing, Robert O. Arrington got a plea bargain and early parole. For his second killing, a jury fixed the punishment at death.

Mr. Arrington, 56, was convicted of murder Thursday for the slaying of Kathy Hutchens in April 2001. On Monday, the Richmond County Superior Court jury returned to hear from one final witness and then deliberated just over an hour before deciding on a death sentence.

"Prison doesn't stop him, ladies and gentlemen. He's already made that clear to you," District Attorney Danny Craig told jurors in his closing argument as he asked them for a death verdict.

"You can prevent the next killing, I cannot; the police cannot; and the prison system cannot. This is a case for the death penalty."

During Mr. Arrington's trial, jurors learned that he not only killed Ms. Hutchens, 46, but also his wife, Elizabeth Arrington, in 1986. He was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and served about five years of a 15-year prison sentence.

"Look at what he does to second chances," Mr. Craig argued to the jury.

While on parole the first time, Mr. Arrington assaulted his live-in girlfriend Ashley Seps in December 1998 and again in April 1999, she testified Monday for the defense. Neither assault involved an iron, however, as the arrest warrant contended, she said.

His parole was violated, and he was sent back to prison after the second assault. But he was paroled again in July 2000. Less than a year later, Ms. Hutchens, who dated and lived with Mr. Arrington for a short time, was dead.

William Sussman, one of Mr. Arrington's attorneys, argued in closing statements that a life sentence would keep the community safe.

"Life in prison without parole is probably the worst punishment you can give this man," Mr. Sussman said. "Death is never required ... and you don't have to have a reason not to vote for death."

Ms. Hutchens, 46, was found dead in her George Road home April 13, 2001. According to medical and crime-scene experts who testified during the trial, she was pursued through her home and repeatedly struck in the head by two weapons. Near her body lay the body of her dog.

Mr. Arrington had left behind his fingerprint and boot prints in Ms. Hutchens' blood. DNA tests would reveal that Ms. Hutchens' blood was also on the boots Mr. Arrington was still wearing on April 13, 2001, as he stood outside Ms. Hutchens' home with other neighbors when her body was discovered.

Mr. Arrington tried to convince the jury that he had only found Ms. Hutchens' body in the house the night of April 3, and was too scared to alert authorities to the slaying.

That morning, she had called the sheriff's department for help in getting Mr. Arrington to leave her home.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.