FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On August 25, a jury in Washington County Circuit Court sentenced Christopher Segerstrom, 51, to life in prison in a unique resentencing case after his 1986 murder of a four-year-old girl.

The proceedings began shortly after 9:45 a.m. with the defense calling a pair of witnesses to support their case that Segerstrom deserved a shorter sentence. A mitigation specialist and a forensic psychological specialist attested to the defendant’s mental deficiencies and his various diagnoses.

Defense attorney Kent McLemore first called Karen Maus, a mitigation specialist for the State of Arkansas that has spent the past 11 years working on criminal cases for the state. She interviewed Segerstrom and testified that he did not demonstrate a great understanding of his own history and situation.

“A lot of things, he didn’t know about his life,” she said. She detailed Segerstrom’s difficult life since birth, including a mother that was not married to his father. She added that David Segersrom, the biological father, was only involved in his son’s life from ages two to four and was “very verbally abusive and an alcoholic.”

Segerstrom’s mother died in 1987 having only completed the 8th grade. Maus added that the defendant also suffered health issues as a youth, including Scarlett Fever and an incident in which “a car motor fell and struck him on the head.”

Ben Crabtree examined defense witness number two, Dr. Benjamin Silver, a clinical psychological evaluator for Arkansas State Hospital. His experience includes having analyzed over one thousand inmates.

Dr. Silver explained that Segerstrom has “been diagnosed with many, many different disorders,” including OCD, ADHD, three different personality disorders and a variety of psychotic disorders. He also expanded on the defendant’s “borderline intellectual functioning,” reflected by multiple IQ tests with results in the 66-67 range. He defined this as an “impaired range” of intelligence, and one that falls in the lowest percentile.

He noted that such a score would give Segerstrom intelligence equivalent to an 8-year-old child.

“In almost all cases, an individual disorder is stable,” he noted. “There’s a lot of consistency over time.” But he added that “it doesn’t make him unable to understand any consequences.

Prosecuting attorney Matt Durrett stated that some other doctors disagree regarding how much someone such as Segerstrom can understand consequences.

“I think he understands the concept of death,” Dr. Silver said. Durrett took issue with some of the doctor’s statements.

“You’re basing it on generalizations,” he declared. “It’s not specific to him.”

“That’s correct,” Dr. Silver agreed.

The cross-examination then delved further into Segerstrom’s malingering and other manipulative behaviors.

“He does it for a number of things,” Durrett said. “To get what he wants.” He then asked if the doctor felt that Segerstrom was aware that his behavior can benefit him.

“Yes, he has control over his behavior,” Silver said. He added that his diagnosis did not preclude the defendant from knowing right from wrong.

At 10:53 a.m., the defense rested its case after calling that pair of witnesses. The sides agreed on a limit of 30 minutes for closing arguments, and the attorneys joined the judge for a brief sidebar to address instructions for the jury.

The members of the jury were reminded that they had the right to consider all of the evidence presented, and to make their own judgments regarding the credibility of witnesses.

Durrett began his closing statement by noting everything that Barbie Thompson has missed in the past 36 years, echoing some of the sentiments that her mother voiced on the stand. He then pivoted to Segerstrom’s past.

“I don’t want you to forget any of it,” he told the jury. He noted that Segerstrom has committed 127 different offenses since he was first sentenced. He also reflected on the gruesome murder one last time.

“This defendant turned a four-year-old girl into evidence,” he stated. “He hasn’t changed in 35 years. He’s still the violent person that he was.”

He then clarified some of the math involved, telling the jury that a 40-year sentence would see Segerstrom released “free and clear” in approximately four years due to his time already served in prison.

“There’s never a time when someone like that is going to be safe to roam our streets,” he said. “I think he deserves to spend every last minute of his life in the Department of Corrections.”

Defense attorney McLemore began his closing with a blunt and simple understatement.

“This is a bad case,” he reminded the jury. “It’s impossible to make sense of. There’s no dispute that this was an awful crime.”

The rest of the closing underlined Segerstrom’s youth at the time and his intellectual challenges as major factors in what happened. McLemore also noted that the murder was “not the M.O. of a sophisticated killer.”

“Childlike,” he said. “That’s what this offense was.” He also referred to Segerstrom’s post-arrest request to go fishing.

Those are the words of a retarded, crazy child.

Defense attorney Kent McLemore, describing a statement by 15-year-old Chris Segerstrom

He also added that Segerstrom has “never had a chance for proper treatment.”

In a brief rebuttal close, Durrett jumped right to the possibilities if the defendant were set free.

“What’s going to stop him from breaking the law?” he asked. “He’s violent, he has no remorse and he hasn’t shown that he has changed his ways.”

He also attacked the characterization of the murderer as “childlike.”

“This childlike person was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes,” he noted. He added that age “doesn’t cause violent behavior, evil does.”

He accentuated the point by showing the jury a photo of the victim that had been admitted as evidence.

“That is a child,” he said, pointing to her. “Unfortunately for her, she met evil on July 26, 1986.”

He concluded by stating once again that “the only right thing” would be a life sentence.

After some instructions from Judge Lindsay, the jury broke for lunch at 12:22 p.m.

By 1:36 p.m., they had returned with a unanimous verdict of a life sentence for Segerstrom. The defense renewed a prior motion regarding Segerstrom’s fitness to proceed. A sentencing order will be written and filed today, and the defense has 30 days to appeal.

Members of Barbie Thompson’s family gather outside the courtroom after the verdict

Members of Barbie Thompson’s family shed tears in the gallery and hugged each other as the verdict was read.

At 1:45 p.m., the jury was thanked for their service and released, concluding the resentencing.