VERDICT BRINGS CLOSURE COUPLE FOUND GUILTY IN 1998 SLAYING.
Byline: Lisa Mascaro Staff Writer
A Chatsworth couple driven by ``greed and lust'' will spend the rest of their lives in prison after being found guilty Monday of murdering her then-husband to collect $1.1 million in insurance money while they carried on a torrid affair.
Matthew and Jennifer Fletcher - who married and had two daughters following the 1998 slaying of Joel Andrew Shanbrom - were found guilty of murder, conspiracy and insurance fraud following the four-month jury trial in San Fernando San Fernando, city, Argentina
San Fernando (săn fərnăn`dō), city (1991 pop. 144,761), Buenos Aires prov., E Argentina. It is a district administrative center in the Greater Buenos Aires area. Superior Court. They were living in a $1 million mansion in a gated community gat·ed community
A subdivision or neighborhood, often surrounded by a barrier, to which entry is restricted to residents and their guests. in Chatsworth at the time of their 2002 arrest.
Relatives of Shanbrom, a Los Angeles Unified School District The Los Angeles Unified School District (the "LAUSD") is the largest (in terms of number of students) public school system in California and the second-largest in the United States. Only the New York City Department of Education has a larger student population. policeman who would have turned 39 on Wednesday, said the guilty verdict means they can start rebuilding their lives.
``This is a closure of a chapter. It doesn't bring Joey back, but now we know justice and truth have been served,'' said Karen Shanbrom, one of Joel's sisters. ``None of us are going to be dancing in the street, but at least we know they didn't get away with it.''
Shanbrom's father, Terry Shanbrom, choked choke
v. choked, chok·ing, chokes
1. To interfere with the respiration of by compression or obstruction of the larynx or trachea.
a. up as he described the struggle to get out of bed and go to work in the years since his son was fatally fa·tal·ly
1. So as to cause death; mortally: fatally injured.
2. So as to result in disaster or ruin.
3. According to the decree of fate; inevitably.
Adv. 1. shot.
``There definitely is some closure,'' said the father, a mortgage broker who relocated to Lancaster because he couldn't bear living in the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. , where the slaying took place.
``It was dark out; now the sun is up.''
Despite Joel's job with the LAUSD LAUSD Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles, CA) and Jennifer's work at a dental office, the couple was struggling financially, prosecutors said. They had lost their home and moved with their 3-year-old son, Jacob, to a rental home in Northridge, while they both moonlighted selling insurance.
At a convention, they met Matthew Fletcher, who convinced them to join him working at his insurance company. Matthew and Jennifer also began a torrid affair, prosecutors said, although Matthew Fletcher told the court that he considered Joel Shanbrom a friend.
The night of March 18, 1998, Jennifer's mother found Joel Shanbrom's body in the den of his home, slumped on a couch in front of the TV, fatally shot in the head. Jennifer told police she had been upstairs with Jacob when she heard a commotion.
Seven months before Joel was killed, Fletcher and the Shanbroms took out a $500,000 life insurance policy, prosecutors said. Six months later, Jennifer reinstated a $300,000 life insurance policy on Joel without his knowledge.
Matthew and Jennifer later married and had two daughters together. They drove cars with vanity plates vanity plate
A license plate for a motor vehicle bearing a combination of letters or numbers selected by the purchaser. reading ``QWTWRKN'' and ``KR8WLTH,'' monikers for ``quit working'' and ``create wealth.''
Each was charged with first-degree murder with the special circumstances special circumstances n. in criminal cases, particularly homicides, actions of the accused or the situation under which the crime was committed for which state statutes allow or require imposition of a more severe punishment. of lying in wait and murder for financial gain, which could have made them eligible for the death penalty. Matthew Fletcher also was charged with bigamy bigamy (bĭ`gəmē), crime of marrying during the continuance of a lawful marriage. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage has been terminated by a divorce or a decree of nullity of marriage. .
Before the verdicts were read, Judge Ronald S. Cohen cohen
(Hebrew: “priest”) Jewish priest descended from Zadok (a descendant of Aaron), priest at the First Temple of Jerusalem. The biblical priesthood was hereditary and male. admonished the courtroom's capacity crowd to refrain from any outbursts. Matthew Fletcher, 45, who had defended himself during the four-month trial, shook his head as he was found guilty of all counts.
Barry O. Bernstein, the attorney for Jennifer Fletcher, 34, declined comment outside court.
They are expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at a hearing Sept. 24.
The three children are living with a relative.
``Ultimately, it came down to lust and greed,'' prosecutor Michael R. Powell said after the hearing. ``That's the ultimate reason why this happened ... Unfortunately, a lot of people's lives were shattered shat·ter
v. shat·tered, shat·ter·ing, shat·ters
1. To cause to break or burst suddenly into pieces, as with a violent blow.
Jennifer's mother, Diane Bates Bates , Katherine Lee 1859-1929.
American educator and writer best known for her poem "America the Beautiful," written in 1893 and revised in 1904 and 1911. , who was named in the criminal complaint but never charged because she was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony to a grand jury, said her daughter and son-in-law are innocent.
``Today they just convicted two innocent people,'' she said outside the courthouse.
``She was a perfect child - never did anything wrong.''
Fletcher family friend Debbie Harrington said she was ``outraged'' at the verdict and had thought the couple would be acquitted and freed. She had planned to greet Jennifer with presents she had in the car.
But Joel Shanbrom's brother, James, praised prosecutors for their diligence in pursuing the case.
``My brother and I were getting really close, closer than ever, and they took him,'' said James, who lives in Lancaster.
He said the ``streets are safer'' with the Fletchers behind bars for the rest of their lives.
``No one will be conned by them.''
Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761
(1 -- color) Karen Shanbrom, left, cries in the arms of a friend in San Fernando Superior Court on Monday after a jury found Jennifer and Matthew Fletcher guilty of killing her brother, Joel Shanbrom, in 1998 for insurance money.
(2 -- color) Matthew and Jennifer Fletcher are expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer