Case Facts: In 1990, Kimber Edwards and Kimberly Cantrell divorced. Cantrell received primary physical custody of their daughter, Erica, and Edwards was ordered to pay child support. In 1995, his child support obligation was raised to $351 per month. In March 2000, Edwards was charged with failing to pay any of his child support obligation for one year. He pleaded not guilty, and his case was set for a court appearance on August 25, 2000. Erica stayed with her father, his wife and their two children for three weeks prior to August 22, 2000, at their St. Louis city home. When Erica did not hear from her mother by August 23, and Cantrell did not arrive to pick Erica up, Erica called her aunt. The aunt went to Cantrell’s home and found her dead, shot twice in the head at close range. Cantrell’s 12-year-old neighbor told police he heard shots and a woman’s scream early in the evening of August 22, and his older brother had seen a black man with a black backpack banging on Cantrell’s door that afternoon.
Ortell Wilson, a tenant in one of Edwards’ rental properties who matched the boy’s description ultimately was arrested for and convicted of murdering Cantrell. Wilson implicated Edwards in the murder, and Edwards was arrested August 27, 2000. Edwards waived his Miranda rights and told police he had hired someone named “Michael” to kill Cantrell for $1,600 and that Edwards had helped in the murder.
The jury found Edwards guilty of first-degree murder, found the existence of one statutory aggravating circumstance and recommended the death penalty. The court sentenced Edwards to death, and he appeals.