UPDATE: Benton County Jury Finds Albert Guilty of Murder
FOLEY -- After just over two hours of deliberation, a Benton County jury has found 26-year-old Cheryl Albert guilty on two counts of 2nd-degree murder in the 2015 killing of Keletigui Keita.
In his closing arguments before jury deliberation, Benton County prosecutor Karl Schmidt asked them to rely on the evidence presented and to use their common sense when considering the verdict. He said with no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon found, jurors should consider expert witness testimony, evidence like phone records, DNA and fingerprints found at the scene to link Albert to the murder.
Schmidt also poked holes in Albert's assertion she was unaware Keita had been killed until Louisville police brought her in for questioning a month later. Schmidt pointed to web searches on one of Albert's many cell phones indicating she had been searching stories on Keita's murder days later.
He also pointed out inconsistencies in her story about whether she left Keita's St. Cloud apartment alone or whether he drove her to a bus station.
Finally, Schmidt pointed to Albert's comments to a friend that she was going to prison for life and had robbed a guy of his watch collection. Keita's watch box, cell phone, and laptop computer were missing when his naked body was found inside his apartment the day after his murder.
Defense lawyers painted a picture that police, investigators and others dropped the ball and failed to investigate other suspects and motives in the case.
They argued there was a lack of blood inside the apartment where Keita's body was found and no blood splatter from the shooting, saying Keita was killed elsewhere and his body was placed inside the apartment.
The defense argued Albert didn't have the motive, means or opportunity to kill Keita. Her lawyers argued Albert was there as a friend and to have a good time with someone who had been kind to her and had helped her out in the past. They also pointed to the fact a gun wasn't found and while Albert was at the apartment the night before he was found dead, that there is nothing to link her to the shooting.
Keita owned the Kilimanjaro Market in St. Cloud. Police found him dead of a gunshot wound to the abdomen on June 9th, 2015.
The investigation into Keita's murder lasted two years and culminated with Albert's arrest at the Los Angeles Airport. She was extradited back to Minnesota to face the charges.