Man convicted of 1983 double murder for the third time

Third trial set for man convicted of fatally beating couple
Posted at 2:01 AM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 04:01:08-04

CALDWELL, Idaho — A man has been convicted for a third time in the killing of a Texas couple as they camped 36 years ago.

The Lewiston Tribune reports a jury convicted Mark Lankford of two counts of first-degree murder on Friday. It was Lankford's third trial in the 1983 double murder case; the two previous convictions were thrown out on appeal.

Prosecutors said Mark and his brother Bryan Lankford were fatally beat U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence and his wife Cheryl. The couple from El Paso, Texas, was on a camping trip along the Clearwater River in Idaho when they were killed.

The brothers were first convicted in 1984 and sentenced to death, but Bryan Lankford's sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

Mark Lankford successfully appealed his conviction after contending there was an error in the instructions given to the jury. His second conviction was overturned after a judge found a prosecutor who formerly worked on the case failed to inform defense attorneys that a witness against Lankford had made a deal for leniency in a separate criminal case.

After the latest verdict was read, Lankford's attorney Sean Walsh said he anticipates there will be another appeal.

During closing arguments, Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Doug Robertson said the brothers took the Bravences' van and credit card after the killings, going on a spending spree before ditching the vehicle in Los Angeles.

Investigators tracked the brothers to Texas, where they were found in a makeshift camp.

Robertson said personal items belonging to the Bravences were also found at the Texas camp, including a military-style hat and a U.S. Marine Corps belt buckle. "The only choice is to come back and tell that man that you see him for exactly what he is; that he's a murderer twice over," Robertson said.

Lankford's attorney maintained that Bryan Lankford committed the murders alone, though Mark Lankford said he helped dispose of the bodies in hopes of sheltering his brother.

"You don't need to feel like a murderer is getting away," Walsh said. "The man who murdered the Bravences is never getting out."

Several members of the Bravence family shed tears and embraced as the guilty verdict was read.