OAKLAND— A woman was found guilty Tuesday of murdering her sister to steal her identity and her money, then stuffing her dismembered body into a freezer.
The Alameda County jury of five men and seven women spent three weeks listening to testimony and three days in deliberations before returning the verdict against Sarah Mitchell, 50, who was charged with murder with the special circumstance of financial gain.
Deputy District Attorney Terry Wiley argued that Mitchell’s plan was to impersonate her sister to withdraw money from her trust accounts.
The court will decide between a penalty of life in prison without parole or the death sentence starting Dec. 4.
In the summer of 1997, Mitchell began posing as Stevie Allman, 52, an anti-drug crusader. When the home they shared burned down, Mitchell claimed they had been the victims of a firebombing and blamed it on disgruntled drug dealers.
Mitchell originally was charged with arson, along with murder, but the arson charges were not pursued.
But Mitchell fooled others into thinking she was Allman, and that she was the victim of arson. She received $3,600 in sympathy checks, and then-Gov. Pete Wilson offered a $50,000 reward for information in the case.
Police soon discovered Allman was really Mitchell.
Then, on July 16 of that year, they found Allman’s body. She had been murdered, dismembered and stuffed into a freezer sealed with duct tape in the ruins of her home.