NORMAN, Okla. – Relatives of a man convicted of murdering a 10-year-old girl testified Tuesday that he was socially awkward while growing up and had a hard time playing with other children.
Kevin Underwood wiped away tears as his father testified as part of a defense effort to spare him from the death penalty.
Underwood, 28, was convicted Friday of first-degree murder for the killing of Jamie Rose Bolin in April 2006 in a plot fueled by cannibalistic fantasies and Internet pornography.
Larry Underwood told jurors he was hard on his son and said he loved him "more than anything."
"I didn't tell him enough," Larry Underwood said, choking back tears. He recalled a time Kevin played T-ball and spent part of the game rolling around in the outfield.
"I said, 'Kevin, if you didn't want to play ball, why'd you do it,"' Larry Underwood said he asked later. "He said, 'I done it for you, Dad."'
The penalty phase of Underwood's trial began Monday. Jurors can sentence Underwood to death or give him a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors said Underwood qualifies for the death penalty because he poses a continuing threat and because the girl's killing was especially cruel. But the defense said he was mentally ill and was out of touch with reality.
Gayle Coburn, Underwood's aunt from Emporia, Kan., testified Tuesday that his social awkwardness began at an early age. She described a picture of Underwood as a toddler reaching his arms out toward the camera.
"Probably by the time Kevin became about 2 years old he did not respond to hugs like other children," Coburn said. "It was like that picture. He was always reaching out wanting to play but not able to take the next step."
As Underwood grew older, Coburn said he once confided in her he was depressed, isolated and feeling very alone. She said she encouraged him to seek medical help.
A doctor also testified that he treated Underwood for depression and prescribed him antidepressants.
Underwood said he lured the girl into his apartment with a pet rat, hit her with a cutting board and smothered her. Her body was later found in a plastic tub in his apartment with her head nearly cut off.