Court upholds death sentence in Middleton case |

Court upholds death sentence in Middleton case

The Nevada Supreme Court upheld Thursday the death sentence imposed on David Middleton by a Reno jury.

Middleton was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Katherine Powell and Thelma Davila in separate crimes.

Powell’s body was discovered in a sleeping bag in a trash dumpster behind an apartment complex in February 1995. DNA evidence in the form of semen on her clothing tied her to Powell.

Davila’s body was discovered in April of the same year. She had been missing nine months. Her death was tied to Middleton after police found some of her belongings in his storage unit.

Jurors found five aggravating circumstances in Powell’s murder warranted execution and four in Davila’s.

Middleton challenged the sentence arguing a recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling requires at least two of those factors be thrown out, which renders the sentence invalid.

The high court agreed, but ruled that the remaining aggravators still support the jury’s decision to order execution.

In Powell’s case, the court ruled there was compelling evidence to support that she was tortured by being bound, kept in a refrigerator and allowed to suffocate.

They ruled the decision in Davila’s death was strongly supported by the evidence recovered from Middleton’s storage unit and they rejected his claim that evidence should be suppressed. The court said there was ample probable cause to support searching that unit.

“Considering all of the evidence adduced during the penalty hearing, we conclude that the jury would have imposed death for each murder,” the court ruled.

They found that none of Middleton’s claims had merit legally and upheld the death sentence.

The decision was unanimous with all seven justices signing it.