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A Georgia man accused of murdering his pregnant wife and burying her in the woods more than 20 years ago was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, officials announced.
Kevin James Lee, 56, was handed the life sentence on March 9 by Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison after being found guilty of the 1991 killing of his 24-year-old wife Ann Margaret Berry, according to court records obtained by Oxygen.com. His guilty verdict followed a two-day trial.
"The DA wishes to commend the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, University of North Texas Center for Human Identification and Dr. [MariaTeresa] Tersigni-Tarrant for their effort, against long odds, to give this victim justice," Coweta County District Attorney John Herbert Cranford Jr. told Oxygen.com in a statement on Monday. "These agencies and this office will not give up on any unsolved murder case until justice is obtained for the victim.”
Ann Margaret Berry was reported missing by her sister in 1991, prosecutors said. Months before her disappearance she’d told relatives she was pregnant with her third child.
Loved ones described Berry's relationship with Lee as “tumultuous.” The pair fought frequently and Lee, prosecutors said, had been known to physically abuse his wife.
“The victim’s family saw bruises and marks on the victim’s body and face, and saw holes in the walls of the home where the victim had been thrown into the walls,” the Coweta County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
On July 4, 1991, Berry phoned her sister to see if she could move into her sister’s home because she “could no longer take the abuse,” prosecutors said. Weeks later, Berry again phoned her sister while the couple was in the midst of an argument. Her sister told investigators could hear the couple’s children crying and Lee shouting in the background during the “unusual” exchange.
“The victim said she was packing her and the children’s belongings and would be driving to her sister’s house in about an hour,” the Coweta County District Attorney’s Office said.
Berry never arrived at her sister’s home and was never seen alive by her family again. When confronted by family members, Lee insisted that Berry had run off with another man.
Days after Berry's disappearance, officials said Lee picked up and moved to Kansas with the couple’s children, charging documents stated.
Lee later told a “litany of tales” and conflicting stories regarding his wife’s whereabouts. He claimed that she ran off with her boyfriend, who he said was a cocaine dealer. Lee also described the person who picked her up as white guy in a van, before claiming he’d last seen his spouse with a Black man in a truck.
In spring 2011, two boys who were camping approximately 100 yards from Lee’s former home found a human skull concealed in a plastic bag buried in the woods," according to an arrest warrant obtained by Oxygen.com. They made the gruesome discovery while digging a fire pit, officials said. Forensic specialists, including anthropologists, later positively identified the remains as belonging to Berry.
Warrants were subsequently issue for Lee’s arrest in Berry’s murder. In 2018, Lee was found to be living in California. He was arrested, indicted, and extradited to Coweta County the following year, additional court filings show. The case finally went to trial on March 7.
Prosecutors, who applauded the Berry’s family’s “relentless pursuit” for answers in the more than three decades since the young mother’s disappearance, said the case would have likely remained unsolved if not for their involvement.
“District Attorney Herb Cranford wishes to convey his immense respect for the victim’s sister, who never stopped looking for her and who fought for justice for 30 years,” the district attorney’s statement added. “Without her, this case would not have resulted in a guilty verdict.”
Rick Samper, Lee’s public defender, declined to comment on his client’s case when reached by Oxygen.com on Monday morning.
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