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Jury begins deliberations in triple-murder trial of Robert Seth Denton

J. H. Osborne • Jan 22, 2019 at 9:07 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The jury is out in the trial of Robert Seth Denton, charged in the August 29, 2015 shooting deaths of: his grandmother, Lena Marie Rose, 57; his mother, Toshya Milhorn, 39; and his stepfather, James Milhorn, 36. Six children were in the home at the time of the shootings, five of which are Denton’s siblings. The sixth was a visiting friend.

Denton is charged with three counts of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment. Denton entered a plea of not guilty in February 2016 and the next month prosecutors announced they would not seek the death penalty. He was 19 years old at the time of the murders.

At the time, the case was scheduled to go to trial in October 2016 and Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said the decision not to seek the death penalty came after careful consideration of the case, conversations with the family, Denton's age and a review of case law.

The trial finally began last Monday, Jan. 14.

After a five days of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses and introduction of about 180 pieces of evidence last week, the trial picked up Monday morning with 2nd Judicial District Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr., reading aloud to the jury the 34 pages of instructions for deliberation. That was followed by closing arguments by the prosecution (led by Assistant District Attorney General Teresa Nelson and District Attorney General Barry Staubus) and the defense (attorney Ricky Curtis, representing Denton). By 11:15 the 12 jurors (two alternates were dismissed) left the courtroom to begin deliberations. They had a lunch break around noon — and deliberations are not permitted while the jury is eating.

Reporters, family members and others interested in the case waited.

At about 4:30 court reconvened and Goodwin said the jury had requested to stop for the day and resume deliberations at 9 a..m Tuesday.

Closing arguments from each side summarized and reaffirmed the position each has held from day one of the trial: Nelson and Staubus said the evidence shows Denton committed the crimes as charged; Curtis said law enforcement’s investigation was too quick and left the murder scene open for possible evidence tampering and Denton — who on Friday took the stand in his own defense and said he did not do it — instead witnessed his grandfather, Curtis Rose, begin the murders before fleeing for his own life. Rose took the stand last week and said Denton was the one who shot his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

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