Prosecutors seek death penalty in 17-year-old girl's murder - News, Weather & Sports

Prosecutors seek death penalty in 17-year-old girl's murder

Richard Hooten being escorted to court on March 21, 2013. Richard Hooten being escorted to court on March 21, 2013.
Todd Willenborg Todd Willenborg
Steve Stewart Steve Stewart
Tara Willenborg Tara Willenborg

CLARKSVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Richard Hooten walked into court Thursday, walking with a limp and with his leg in a cast. The family of the 17-year-old girl he's accused of killing were overcome with emotion when they saw him.

Prosecutors say Hooten raped and murdered 17-year-old Tara Willenborg earlier this month inside her Clarksville apartment. Thursday was the first time Todd Willenborg saw the man accused of murdering his daughter.

"I've been shaking ever since I was told earlier he was going to be here. I've been shaking non-stop," Willenborg said.

Trembling with emotion, Willenborg didn't mince words about what he would say to Hooten if given the chance.

"Do everyone in the state and in the country a favor and just hang yourself in that jail and stop costing us more money and get it over with now," said Willenborg.

Hooten spoke to the media days after he was charged, a speech Tara's father said offered absolutely no comfort.

"That was a big ploy to try to come up with some defense or something because he didn't need to say a word. He had already given hours of confession or whatever and they already had enough DNA and all of that. His little talk wasn't necessary. It just made it worse for us," Willenborg said.

Inside the courtroom, prosecutors laid out the punishment they are seeking.

"The death penalty is for the worst of the worst and should be reserved for those cases where there's a certainty of guilt," Prosecutor Steve Stewart said. He said there are three factors that went into their decision.

"He committed an intentional murder during the course of a rape, he committed an intentional murder in the course of criminal deviant conduct and that he was on felony probation for possession of narcotics at the time that he committed the murder," Stewart said.

Hooten is expected back in court in May. His criminal history includes rape and several other charges, dating all the way back to the 1980's.

Prosecutors say only once since 1976 in Indiana has someone pleaded guilty to the death sentence.

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