YORK — Braquette Walton, a former caregiver at a Rock Hill assisted living home, will spend the rest of her life in prison without a chance for parole after a jury found her guilty in the smothering death of 82-year-old Pauline Cook, her patient, nearly a year ago.
After receiving her sentence in a York County courtroom, a tearful Walton turned to members of Cooks family and said: I dont want you all to think of me as a monster ... Im not. I wouldve never done anything to hurt her. I wouldnt hurt anybody.
Sixteenth Circuit Judge John Hayes III sentenced Walton, a 30-year-old mother of a 14-year-old son, to life in prison for murder Thursday night after a four-day trial. Walton also was sentenced to 30 years in prison for first-degree burglary and five years for unlawful exploitation of a vulnerable adult, abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death and eight counts of forgery.
The sentences will run concurrently, Hayes ruled.
Early on Nov. 13, 2011, staff at OakBridge Terrace, an assisted living facility in Rock Hill, found Cook, a patient for two months, lying dead on her bathroom floor with a shower cap on her head and water flooding her room. A deputy coroner noticed bruising around her eyes and a pathologist said Cooks tongue had been bitten and she had several fingertip marks on her skin and hemorrhaging in her eyes that were consistent with asphyxiation.
A day before her death, Cook had filed a police report against Walton after receiving bank statements containing several checks made out to Walton with Cooks signature forged on them.
Detectives determined that Walton had forged Cooks name on eight checks made out to herself. They found surveillance video of Walton depositing the checks and uncovered evidence that Walton used her employee ID card to enter OakBridges premises the day Cook was killed. Walton was supposed to be off work that weekend.
In initial statements to police, Walton said she left Rock Hill to go to Greenville, said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett. When officials subpoenaed her phone records, discovering she had been in the area the night of Cooks death, she requested a second interview with detectives.
She gave another statement, tearfully saying she entered OakBridge on Nov. 12, went into Cooks room and apparently spoke with the woman. Cook became upset and prepared to call police. Thats when Walton claimed she grabbed the phone, Brackett said. Cook hit her in the head with the phone and the two began to struggle.
Walton told police she laid on top of Cook until the elderly woman stopped breathing. Walton panicked, Brackett said, and dragged Cook into the bathroom and placed her in a running shower.
When giving a third statement confirming her confession, Walton asked police if she could talk to her mother before she signed it, Brackett said. They agreed. She never returned.
During the defenses closing argument Thursday, Waltons attorney, Assistant Public Defender Phil Smith, argued that police already had their minds made up when pressing charges against Walton. He said their evidence, such as Waltons third unsigned statement and a bevy of items he said officials never tested for DNA or fingerprints, was insufficient.
Walton did not testify during the trial or present witnesses.
Cook was real trustworthy, she trusted everybody, said Jean Robinson, her sister.
After the 12 jurors confirmed their verdict following a nearly two-hour deliberation, Smith motioned for a new trial, citing insufficient evidence. Hayes denied the motion.
During the sentencing phase, David Walton pleaded with the judge to be lenient when sentencing his sister, who he said has spent the last year in solitary confinement because she feared the general population in prison.
Sadly, she had to see her niece for the first time in court, he said. She will be gone from my family.
Before Hayes handed down the sentence, Janice Sullivan, Cooks daughter who hours before had seen pictures of her mother after her murder, held up a portrait of Cook, alive and vibrant, as she asked that Walton receive the maximum sentence.
This is my mother. She did not look like the pictures we saw today, she said. My mother did not deserve the horrific way she died.
Jonathan McFadden (803) 329-4082