GALLIPOLIS — A man found guilty by a jury of the murder of a Gallia County woman earlier this month will spend his life in prison without the eligibility of parole.
Lee A. Hawkins, 48, Bidwell, was sentenced on Tuesday in the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County before a gallery filled with the friends and family of the victim, Betsy Ball, who attended the morning’s hearing.
Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans handed down a life sentence without the eligibility of parole for a charge of aggravated murder along with a 36-month sentence for a tampering with evidence charge.
Hawkins was found guilty by a jury on Tuesday, October 9 of murdering Ball, 67, at her home on Wilder Road on February 29, 2012, and raping, mutilating and dumping her body on a nearby farm located on Piper Road near the Village of Vinton.
The victim was reported missing by her family during the early morning hours of March 1 and her body was later found by law enforcement officials where it had been dumped in a field.
Autopsy reports later indicated that the primary cause of death in this case was strangulation.
Hawkins was later identified as a suspect in this case and has remained in the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office since his arrest on March 13.
Following a six day trial, Hawkins was found guilty last week by a jury of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and the gross abuse of a corpse.
Tampering with evidence and the gross abuse of a corpse were later found to be allied offenses in this case — or offenses that could have been committed by the same actions of the defendant — and were merged by the court for the purposes of sentencing.
During Tuesday’s hearing, David Ball, the victim’s husband, was given the opportunity to address the court on behalf of his family. He requested Gallia County Assistant Prosecutor Britt Wiseman to read a statement he had prepared.
“Betsy was a great, great lady, and you robbed her from us. You robbed her from her children, her grandchildren, her brothers and the rest of her family, from my family and from her many, many friends,” Wiseman read on behalf of Ball. “She was loved and her company enjoyed by everyone who knew her; but, most of all, you robbed her from her great enjoyment of life. You robbed her from her family, her friends that she could bring a smile to their faces and, also, her beautiful flowers that she enjoyed very much. She was a great, great lady who is sadly missed by me, more and more everyday.”
In his statement, David Ball also briefly addressed the suggestion, as brought up in the defense’s closing statements during the final day of trial, that Hawkins and Betsy Ball had had a consensual relationship.
“On the consensual relationship suggestion, Betsy was not an adulteress. Betsy was a good, good Christian who lived it and practiced it everyday,” he wrote.
The victim’s husband also directly addressed Hawkins, who had been been a long-time farm hand and had worked for the Ball family for several years.
“Well, Lee, after 20 years of knowing someone as kind, big-hearted and respectful to you as Betsy was, how could you commit such a stupid and horrendous murder? I truly hope that every minute of every day is of the same or worse magnitude of hell for you in prison that you put my wonderful wife, Betsy, through, because you deserve much, much worse than you are getting.”
The defendant, who was also given the opportunity to address the court prior to sentencing, declined to speak.
Following the hearing, Hawkins was remanded to the custody of the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and will be transported to a state prison facility.