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Imel murder conviction overturned

Citizen Staff



A Tucson woman’s murder conviction in the death of her stepfather has been overturned, but a retrial is unlikely because she was sentenced to life for conspiring to commit murder.

Tiffanie Marie Imel, 22, was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the 1999 death of Wal-Mart executive Kurt Imel in Tucson.

Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned Imel’s murder conviction but upheld the conspiracy charge.

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay was expected to tell Pima County Superior Court Judge Pro-Tem Howard Fell this morning that a retrial is not needed.

The murder charge was overturned because of a jury instruction that appellate judges deemed erroneous and may have tainted the murder charge, Unklesbay said.

Imel, a data-entry clerk in the women’s prison at Perryville, was not expected in court today.

Teresa Imel, Kurt Imel’s estranged wife, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years. Jurors deadlocked on whether Teresa Imel planned the murder. Prosecutors sought another trial on the conspiracy charge, but in exchange for waiving her right to appeal, Imel pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of attempting to involve a minor in a drug offense.

Teresa Imel was sentenced to seven years on top of her 21-year sentence.

Both women had faced charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Only Teresa Imel faced a possible death sentence.

Daniel Ray Averett pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and Troy Bertling pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against the women. Averett was sentenced to life, and Bertling was sentenced to 22 years.

According to prosecutors, the Imel women and Bertling hired Averett, who was their drug supplier, to murder Kurt Imel. They wanted Kurt Imel dead, according to testimony, because he disapproved of their drug-related lifestyle and he threatened to seek custody of the Imels’ three young children if that lifestyle continued.

Averett, who suffered severe brain damage in a car accident that left his adoptive mother dead, acknowledged that murdering Imel “was the wrong thing to do.” He had agreed to carry out the crime for $500 but said he was never paid.

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