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HARRISONVILLE, MO (KCTV/AP) -
A jury found a former Grandview police officer guilty of murdering a Harrisonville mother in 2008, and leaving her body in a bathtub.
The verdict was announced shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday.
Jeffrey Dean Moreland, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the November 2008 death of 30-year-old Cara Jo Roberts. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first-degree murder charge and 50 years for the armed criminal action charge.
Jeff Roberts, the victim's husband, spoke about how his son has had to grow up without his mother. The boy was just 2 years old when his mother was slain, and has only known her through pictures and memories shared by loved ones.
"We talk about her all the time and the things we do that remind me of her, I try to let him know," he said.
Her sister, Jessie Herrell, became emotional when discussing the verdict.
"Nothing will ever bring her back. This verdict has given us justice for Cara," she said.
"This case has weighed on the entire community. The victim's family and friends have dealt with incomprehensible loss and tragedy. Through this, they have exhibited unbelievable courage in their search for justice. I would also like to commend the work of law enforcement for the countless hours spent working to seek a resolution and a guilty verdict in this case," said Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley in a news release.
"We would like to thank the community for the past five years of support, thoughts and prayers. We are also grateful for the countless hours and dedication that the prosecuting attorney's office, law enforcement and other agencies have provided. However, nothing will bring her back. This verdict provides justice for Cara," said the victim's family in a written statement.
Tuesday, the first day of Moreland's murder trial, the courtroom heard from the victim's family. Cara Jo Roberts husband and her father both took the stand.
Cass County prosecutors began opening statements saying it was Moreland who murdered Roberts five years ago. Roberts was found face down in a bathtub in her Harrisonville home. Authorities said she had been sexually assaulted and shot in the back of the head.
It was her husband, Jeff Roberts, who found her after he went to check on her because she hadn't picked up their 2-year-old from the babysitter, and her father could not reach her by phone.
Cara Jo Roberts' father, Roger Keefer, said he went to his daughter's home and noticed the door was partially opened, but he thought maybe she had taken her son to the park. He left. Little did he know, his daughter had been brutally assaulted and killed.
Moreland's defense attorney asked specific questions about the timeline of several witnesses. He asked what time her husband found her and the whereabouts of their neighbor. But prosecutors made it clear, through phone records and other witnesses, that neither Cara Jo Roberts' husband nor their neighbor were with her at the time of her death.
It was revealed in testimony Tuesday that Moreland joined Jeff Roberts' bowling league a year after his wife's death.
Moreland was a police officer in Grandview from 1984 until his retirement in 2005.
He was tied to Cara Jo Roberts' death and the October 2010 Jackson County slaying of 75-year-old Nina Whitney. Detectives collected DNA from another Harrisonville woman's sexual assault in June 2011. Moreland faces charges in both of those cases.
Whitney had been stabbed 22 times and strangled.
The jury was brought in from central Missouri's Boone County.
The sentencing stage also began shortly after the verdict was reached, following a short recess.
KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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