By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — An Ellenwood teenager faces life in prison after being convicted Friday morning of murder and other felonies in the February 2011 shooting death of his girlfriend.
Kevin Kosturi, who will be 18 this month, was found guilty of malice and felony murder, aggravated assault, lying to police, tampering with evidence, possession of a weapon by a person under 18 and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony. Jurors rejected a last-minute appeal by the defense to convict him of involuntary manslaughter on the theory that the shooting of Angel Hope Freeman was accidental.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Freeman’s family is thrilled at the verdict. Dozens of relatives and friends attended every day of this week’s trial.
“I’ve never seen that many friends and family members come for an entire trial,” she said. “It shows how important she was to them and their lives. She was a wonderful human being and them being here speaks volumes of a victim. What a tragedy.”
But Lawson said she also sympathized with Kosturi’s family.
“It’s sad for them, too,” she said.
Kosturi’s defense attorney, Scott Dawkins, said the family was too distraught to speak publicly about the conviction Friday. He plans to file a motion for a new trial and to appeal the verdict, which he said surprised him.
“We respect the jury’s verdict but disagree strongly with it,” he said. “Kevin is looking forward, we’re absolutely going to appeal each and every avenue we have and several objections. We’re also going to ask for a new trial. We will continue to fight.”
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Dixon and Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Thurston. Dixon said the case was thoroughly investigated, which helped in the prosecution.
“The Clayton County Police Department did a superb job, they had him within a couple hours,” he said. “There were two investigators who also did a great job with the case. We couldn’t have done it without the help of other people.”
Dixon and Thurston told jurors that Kosturi planned to kill himself after shooting Freeman.
“In the gun, there was a spent cartridge and a bullet left inside,” said Dixon. “The bullet misfired. The hammer came down but didn’t fire for some reason.”
But Dawkins discounted that theory.
“I don’t believe that for a second,” he said. “I know that’s the state’s position and I’m not surprised it’s their belief but I strongly disagree with it.”
Dawkins said Kosturi mourns Freeman as he has for the last two years.
“He’s been upset for two years,” said Dawkins. “He’s been hurting for two years. His family expresses nothing but goodwill toward the Freeman family. It’s so sad and tragic. No one comes out a winner.”
No sentencing date has been set for Kosturi. Dawkins said he plans to explore all areas to mitigate the teenager’s punishment. Lawson said Kosturi faces a minimum of life in prison with the possibility of parole plus 11 years and a maximum of life without parole.
Kosturi’s neighbor, Robert Bethune, pleaded guilty to providing the teen with the gun used to kill Freeman. He hasn’t been sentenced yet and there is not a date set, said Dixon.
Prosecutors said Kosturi was upset because Freeman wanted to break up with him.