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Thursday, October 15, 1998

Woman found guilty of not protecting children

ABILENE, Texas (AP) - Jurors on Wednesday found a Granbury woman guilty of failing to prevent an ex-boyfriend from raping and killing her daughter and severely beating her son.

It took the jury just under four hours to convict 37-year-old Schwana Patterson on two counts of injury to a child by omission.

Ms. Patterson had adamantly denied the charges against her and showed little emotion during the eight-day trial, but tears welled in her eyes as she listened to the verdict.

As she was led away by sheriff's deputies, she said a few words to her sobbing 19-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who had testified that Schwana Patterson was a loving mother.

"Head up, kid. Shoulders back," Schwana Patterson said as the elevator doors closed.

Defense attorney Donna Guion expressed shock at the jury's decision.

"I'm flabbergasted," she said.

"The jury said what they said and I respect that, but we don't always agree with it," Ms. Guion said.

Hood County District Attorney Richard Hattox left the courthouse without comment, but told reporters later he believes that Ms. Patterson deserves life imprisonment.

"I don't believe there's a mother on earth that would not hear her child scream and cry as (she's) being raped on the bed 15 feet away and fail to respond," he said. "If there is such a mother, we've seen her in the courthouse today."

The sentencing phase was set to begin Thursday. Ms. Patterson faces up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count.

Prosecutors argued she heard and ignored her children's screams as they were abducted on the morning of April 30, 1997. Ms. Patterson says she slept through the incident.

During closing arguments Wednesday morning, Hattox said Ms. Patterson could have saved her children in any of three ways: By stepping in when the attack began, by reporting the attack to police or by telling police the following morning that her ex-boyfriend, Bobby Wayne Woods, had kidnapped the children.

"Parents have duties to protect their children," Hattox told the jury of nine women and three men. "That's the law."

He said later that Ms. Patterson chose instead to defend Woods - at her children's expense.

Woods took 11-year-old Sarah Patterson and 9-year-old Cody Patterson from a bed they shared. Sarah's body was found on the shore of Lake Granbury. She had been raped and her throat slashed. Cody was found wandering near a cemetery after being beaten and left for dead.

Woods is now on death row for the crime.

Ms. Guion warned jurors during closing arguments they'd have to reflect on the case afterward with a clear conscience.

"If you have doubts, now is the time to have those doubts," Ms. Guion said. "She doesn't have a tomorrow. Today is her one and only chance."

The trial was moved to Taylor County because of extensive news coverage.

Cody, now 10, testified against his mother last week via closed-circuit television. Prosecutors also played a videotape in which he told Child Protective Services workers that his mother had acknowledged hearing screams from her children but doing nothing because she feared Woods.

Ms. Patterson's lawyers criticized the boy's credibility as a witness and said the investigation was flawed.

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