By Wendy Holdren
Although Cyan Maroney’s friends and family cannot bring her back, they can rest assured that her killer will spend the rest of his life behind the bars of a prison cell.
It took a jury less than 40 minutes to find Jeremy James Lambert, 33, guilty of first-degree murder without mercy. He will spend the remainder of his life in prison without the chance of parole.
“There are no winners,” Cyan’s father Michael Maroney said after the verdict. “All we have is losers. All that we have here is pain for both families.”
The murder of the 25-year-old professional dancer was a riveting case as Lambert did not dispute that he stabbed Maroney, but the former military serviceman tried to convince the jury he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and thus was not responsible for his actions.
The jury wasn’t buying.
“It is important though, this verdict, to protect others,” Michael Maroney said. “Without a doubt, he would hurt someone again if he were set free. This is the only verdict that will protect the rest of us. It’s not justice because it doesn’t bring Cyan back. That’s the only thing that would really, truly, be justice.”
Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller said like Cyan’s family, she is grateful for the jury’s verdict.
“We can’t give the family what they want. They can’t undo her suffering. They can’t get her back in their arms, but the verdict of life without (mercy) in some way gives some comfort.”
Keller said all murder cases are difficult, but in this case, “Cyan Maroney was so completely innocent of any wrongdoing. She was so incredibly talented and artistic and had so much to offer this world.”
Maroney had been dancing since she was 5 years old. At the time she was killed, she was dancing with the West Virginia Dance Company, but had danced previously for Theatre West Virginia and Trillium Performing Arts.
During the past two weeks, the prosecution presented evidence to the jury, including the blood-stained shirt Lambert was wearing the night of the murder, the empty box of the 14-inch Winchester Bowie knife Lambert used to kill Maroney, video footage of Lambert purchasing the murder weapon at Walmart and 911 calls from Maroney’s roommate and Lambert’s family after he called them to confess.
The prosecution called 16 witnesses, including Maroney’s roommates who were present the night of the murder, the medical examiner who performed Maroney’s autopsy and officers who questioned Lambert.
Defense attorney Thomas Dyer called four witnesses: Lambert; his mother, Jill Lambert; a longtime family friend; and forensic psychiatrist Lawson Bernstein Jr.
In Keller’s rebuttal, she called several witnesses for additional testimony, including one of Lambert’s ex-girlfriends, two roommates from his deployment in Kuwait and two psychologists.
According to the evidence presented, Lambert left his mother’s house in Oak Hill around midday on Oct. 2, 2011. He purchased some beer, sat in the Crossroads Mall parking lot and drank the beer, then went to Walmart and purchased a 14-inch Bowie knife.
He and Maroney planned to meet at her house on Myers Avenue in Beckley to talk after she returned from work. Lambert sat in the Walmart parking lot for nearly an hour, then drove to Maroney’s house.
When he arrived, she became angry with him for drinking and driving. She went back inside her house, and Lambert soon followed her inside, the knife hidden behind his back.
Although Lambert claimed not to remember what happened inside Maroney’s bedroom, evidence proved he stabbed her 23 times, including one wound that nearly severed her arm and another that scraped her skull.
Her roommates saw Lambert leave Maroney’s bedroom covered in her blood, and after he left, he called his mother and told her he feared that he had killed Maroney. Three hours later, police officers apprehended him in Fayette County, just past the New River Gorge Bridge.
The defense’s primary argument was that Lambert suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after his deployment to Kuwait, which Dyer said, in addition to his other psychological disorders, left him without the capacity to form the intent to kill or to premeditate murder.
During closing arguments Thursday, Keller explained the three types of first-degree murder to the jury and reviewed the evidence.
On a marker board in front of the jury, Keller made a check for each of the stab wounds Maroney sustained.
“He could have chosen to stop after one; he could have chosen to stop after two,” she repeated all the way through 23.
“That is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of first-degree premeditated murder.”
During Dyer’s closing argument, he said, “Is Jeremy Lambert guilty? I’d say he’s as guilty as a man can be. The question is, what is he guilty of?”
Dyer again noted Lambert’s PTSD symptoms and said his “perception has been altered.”
“Academically, this case ain’t that tough,” Dyer said. “Emotionally, it couldn’t be tougher.”
In a passionate closing rebuttal, Keller quoted Jack’s final words to Rose in the movie “Titanic.”
“You’re going to get out of this. You’re going to go on and you’re going to make babies and watch them grow and you’re going to die an old lady, warm in your bed. Not here, not this night,” Keller quoted.
“Cyan was beautiful, talented, loving and compassionate, with her whole life ahead of her to dance, work, find a good man, make babies and be with family and friends who loved her. She had the right to die safe and warm, an old woman in her bed.”
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