A man accused of fatally shooting six members of his ex-wife's family, including four children, in an act of vengeance is guilty of capital murder, a jury in Houston decided Thursday. Jurors deliberated for eight hours over two days before rejecting Ronald Lee Haskell's insanity defense, the AP reports. His attorneys had argued that Haskell believed voices in his head were telling him to kill the Stay family at their suburban Houston home in 2014. Prosecutors alleged Haskell was motivated by vengeance and had plotted to hurt anybody who helped his ex-wife, Melannie Lyon, after she left him. Lyon testified that Haskell physically abused her and their children, so she moved them all from Utah to Texas to be with her family after the divorce. Authorities say Haskell traveled from California and stalked Lyon's family for two days before killing six of them.
Cassidy Stay, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was shot in the head but survived by playing dead. Stay clasped her hands as if in prayer and bowed her head before the verdict was read. Afterward, she wiped away tears. Stay later smiled and took deep breaths as she hugged prosecutors in the Houston courtroom. Stay, now 20, testified at trial that she prayed and begged her uncle "please don't hurt us," but that Haskell forced the whole family to lie face down on the living room floor before shooting them one by one. Those killed were 39-year-old Stephen Stay and his 34-year-old wife Katie (Lyon's sister), along with their children 4-year-old Zach, 7-year-old Rebecca, 9-year-old Emily, and 13-year-old Bryan. Starting Monday, jurors hear evidence in the trial's punishment phase before deciding whether to sentence Haskell, 39, to life in prison or death. (More on the tragic case here.)