12/04/2006 at 01:00 AM EST
It took eight days of deliberation, including reports of a deadlock, but on Nov. 16 a jury in Barnstable, Mass., found Christopher McCowen guilty in the notorious murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington in 2002. For some observers the verdict was surprising. Initially the case had appeared to be a slam-dunk for the prosecution: Semen matching McCowen's DNA was found on the body. (McCowen, a garbage collector who was sentenced to life without parole, claimed that he and Worthington had had consensual sex.) But during the five-week trial, defense attorney Robert George managed to poke several holes in the state's scenario: Among other things, he introduced a witness who said he had seen a truck driven by a white man speeding away from Worthington's home around the time that Worthington was believed to have been killed.
In the end, though, the defense could not overcome a disputed statement that McCowen gave to police in which he admitted beating Worthington but claimed a friend had plunged the knife into her chest. (Police said the friend has an alibi for the night.) As for Worthington's daughter Ava, now 7, who as a toddler was found clinging to her mother's body, she is being raised by a childhood friend of Worthington's. As Worthington's cousin Mary Worthington told the court, the case was "about the loss of a loving, vibrant woman who had the best belly laugh in the world."