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signal mountain murder trial

while interning at the chattanooga times, i was assigned to cover the signal mountain murder trial.

frank casteel was on trial for the triple-murder of richard mason, earl smock and ken griffith in july 1998. while casteel denied having any knowledge of the slayings on signal mountain, the police presented an incredible amount of circumstantial evidence before the court. when he got on the stand, he protested that all of the other fourteen witnesses were lying. he said he and his wife went camping on signal mountain to celebrate their anniversary the same day as the three murders.

the trial was filled with many twists and turns, including testimony from casteel's mistress who had recorded their conversations together. in addition, the two prosecuting attorneys were to run against each other in the upcoming election. bill cox, the district attorney at the time, took on the trial for only a dollar.

after being in trial for two weeks, twelve jurors from loudon county, tenn. took only one hour and forty-five minutes to convict casteel of first degree murder. and in less than two minutes after their verdicts, criminal court judge doug meyer sentenced casteel to life in prison for each slaying.

above left: special prosecutor lee davis points at casteel during his opening statements.

above right: on the stand, casteel smirks while being questioned by district attorney bill cox.


above left: don poole, one of casteel's defense attorney's shows the jury a gun found in casteel's possesion.

above right: paige casteel cries and receives comfort from a relative as her mother susie casteel, testifies about her father's affair.

above left: susie casteel, frank's wife, testifies that she had sent letters to her husband's mistress to try to break up their relationship. "i wanted her to think he was a bad husband. i wanted her to think he was a bad father and had killed those men on the mountain."

above right: showing no emotions or response, casteel listens to testimony by his wife and his mistress.

above: paula kirby, left, widow of ken griffith and daughter of richard mason, sits with mason's sister, juanita, during the reading of casteel's verdict in the signal mountain murder trial.

above left: trevor casteel, one of casteel's sons, sobbed and called to god when the verdicts were read.

above right: casteel shows no reaction to the verdicts: three life sentences. his attorneys vow to appeal; the process may take years.

the signal mountain murder trial was one of the most intense assignements i have ever gone on. there wasn't a day that went by where the courtroom wasn't packed, and emotions weren't high. i became close with the victim's families as well as the accused. i learned a great deal about the justice system and politics. i can only hope that on may 21 justice was served.