Four years ago when she was 18 and desperate to buy methamphetamine, Elyse Marie Palmer sold information about the operations of the Henderson Applebee’s restaurant from which she had recently been fired, lawyers said.
But Palmer told police she is not exactly sure who robbed the restaurant and killed her former boss in the process.
"The cold-blooded killers are still out there. I know you want them," Palmer said during her sentencing Monday.
District Judge Donald Mosley gave her a 10- to 25-year prison term for her role in the slaying of 45-year-old Thomas Farrell. It was a longer sentence than the one prosecutors and Palmer’s defense lawyer had agreed upon.
Palmer pleaded guilty in March to voluntary manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, and in exchange for that plea prosecutors had agreed to ask that the sentences for each charge run concurrently. The maximum sentence under that deal was eight to 20 years in prison.
But Mosley, who said he was struck by the comparison of all that the Farrell family has lost to what Palmer stands to lose, opted to give her more time.
"You say you want to raise your 2-year-old son," Mosley told Palmer, then asked her to put herself in the place of Farrell’s mother and imagine what it would be like to lose that son at the age of 45.
Farrell, the father of two daughters age 22 and 19, was shot and stabbed in August 2003 while he was closing up the Applebee’s at 699 Stephanie St. near Sunset Road.
He was found the next morning when another manager arrived to reopen the restaurant. The safe and cash register were open and about $10,000 was missing, prosecutor David Schwartz said.
Farrell’s family advocated for the maximum sentence.
"You devised this plan and carried it out for a few dollars," said his widow, Paula Farrell.
She recalled how Palmer had once approached her table at Applebee’s while she waited for her husband.
"You were so nice to us … what kind of a person does this?" Paula Farrell asked.
Her oldest daughter was in the same class at Green Valley High School as Palmer, who dropped out her senior year.
"I hope if you have a soul, you’re afraid because you planned and you conspired and you carried out this act," said Farrell’s sister Susan Farrell, who flew in from Chicago to attend the sentencing.
Palmer apologized to the Farrell family in the courtroom and told them she would cooperate with prosecutors and do anything she could to help bring his killers to justice.
Palmer passed a polygraph, indicating she had no part in the robbery or murder, her defense lawyer Alzora Jackson said.
She said Palmer was "loaded" when she told the group of people about the restaurant’s operations. Palmer gave police the names of three people whom she said were among those she told about the plan, Schwartz said.
Two of those people are "serious gang members" with substantial criminal histories, Jackson said.
Prosecutors, however, would be unable to win a conviction of those men based solely on a co-conspirator’s testimony, Schwartz said.
"We have nothing but her word," he said.
That points to failures on the part of the Henderson police regarding collection and preservation of the evidence that could have otherwise been used to properly charge the people who carried out the killing, Susan Farrell said after the sentencing.
"We recognize there wasn’t a lot to go on here," she said, adding she was grateful to Mosley for the sentence. "But there isn’t a doubt in our minds that Elyse planned it, she hired them and it was completely premeditated."