Ending one of the longest criminal trials in the history of White County, a jury found Jonathan Hart guilty of murder Saturday in the shooting death of his estranged wife.
The jury spent about 21 hours deliberating the case over four days before returning with a verdict at 2 p.m.
White County Sheriff Neal Walden said Hart, 22, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the death of his wife, 21-year-old 911 operator Stephanie Hart.
Jonathan Hart was sentenced by Judge Lynn Alderman to the mandatory sentence of life in prison, with a chance of parole in 30 years. An additional five years was added to the sentence for the weapons charge.
Walden said it was the longest trial he knew of in his 30 years in local law enforcement, and “probably one of the longest trials in the history of White County.”
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “These folks needed to have some closure.”
Authorities said on July 26, 2008, Hart shot his wife at his home off Ga. 115 when she came to the house to finalize a divorce. Unsigned divorce papers were found on a table near Stephanie Hart’s body.
Hart fled the state after the shooting and was found several days later walking along the side of a road in Monroe, La.
The trial of the case lasted eight days, and jury deliberations stretched on for another four. District Attorney Stan Gunter and defense attorney Charlie Brown said it was the longest deliberation period they had encountered.
Despite the unusual length of deliberations, jurors never indicated to Alderman that they were deadlocked. A request came Friday to replace one juror with an alternate. The request was initially denied, then a juror was excused and an alternate took her place Friday night.
Deliberations resumed at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“The jury was very thorough in their deliberations,” Walden said.