Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guilty Verdict in Killing of Girl Prosecution Will Seek Death Penalty for Link

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guilty Verdict in Killing of Girl Prosecution Will Seek Death Penalty for Link

Article excerpt

Pamela Braun managed to wait until jurors left the courtroom Thursday before she burst into sobs and hugged the prosecutor who got a guilty verdict against the man accused of raping and strangling her 11-year-old daughter.

Prosecutor Joseph Warzycki said minutes later that he had plenty of evidence to persuade jurors to recommend the death penalty for Martin Link, 32, of St. Louis. That part of the trial begins today in St. Louis Circuit Court.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated only two hours Thursday afternoon before finding Link guilty of first-degree murder, rape and kidnapping in the killing of Elissa Self-Braun. She vanished on the way to school in 1991.

Defense attorney Joseph Green said he was shocked by the verdict, adding he will do all he can to convince jurors that Link does not deserve to be executed. The jury's alternative is to recommend a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Elissa's stepmother, Sue Self, told reporters that the family's relief over the verdict could help members begin to recover from the nightmare of the girl's slaying.

Warzycki, an assistant circuit attorney, said he planned to present a full day of testimony today from other victims of Link. "He's a violent criminal," Warzycki said. "He targets young women."

Link already is serving prison sentences totaling at least 216 years for a variety of crimes. He was out of prison after serving six years of a 20-year sentence for kidnapping and rape when he began a crime rampage that included the killing of Elissa, authorities said.

Warzycki had ended his argument to jurors by showing them one of the fliers distributed in Elissa's neighborhood after she vanished. Her body turned up in an Ozarks river more than 100 miles south of St. Louis. Warzycki described Elissa as a "helpless child" and Link as a predator.

At least two jurors, including one with a 6-year-old daughter, dabbed their eyes as Warzycki held up the flier. After the jury filed out of the courtroom to begin deliberating, Warzycki leaned over a railing and hugged Self as she cried. …

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