A Hennepin County District Court jury on Saturday convicted a woman of murder for her role in a 2009 pawnshop robbery that left a customer dead.
Rosalyn McDonald-Richards, 58, was found guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. The jury delivered its verdict at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday after deliberating about 12 hours.
McDonald-Richards bowed her head when the verdict was read, as her attorney, Philip Leavenworth, gently patted her back to console her. Her family, including siblings who testified on her behalf, looked on quietly.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 19. A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence.
McDonald-Richards was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the September 2009 robbery at Avi's Pawn and Jewelry in Richfield. She was accused of helping to plot the robbery and serving as a getaway driver for her boyfriend, Calvin Anderson, and the shooter, Johnny Perry.
Perry shot customer Malcolm Cowens, 33, as Cowens and clerk Antonio Culpepper tried to flee the store during the robbery. Cowens, who was shot in the back, died. Culpepper survived.
"There are really no winners today," said Cowens' twin sister, Christina Cowens-Gholson.
Prosecutors contend that although McDonald-Richards didn't set foot in the store during the robbery, her role made her just as culpable as Anderson, the alleged mastermind, and Perry, who pulled the trigger.
All three were charged with first-degree murder. Perry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last year and received a 33-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his co-defendants. Anderson has not yet gone to trial.
McDonald-Richards, who took the stand in her own defense, contended that she did not know what Anderson and Perry intended to do when she drove them to Avi's that evening and waited outside. She initially told police that Anderson had taken her car that night, but later admitted to lying because she was scared, although she said she had nothing to do with the robbery. She contended that Anderson was abusive and manipulative and that she was planning to leave him the day before the robbery. She had been in the pawnshop that morning, she said, and claims she told Anderson in passing about a $4,000 transaction she saw. Later that day, Anderson asked her to pick up Perry and drive them to Avi's.
Leavenworth said he plans to appeal McDonald-Richards' conviction. "Ms. Richards, from the first day I met her, maintained her innocence. I believed her then and I believe her now, but the jury has the last word and they have spoken," he said.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley declined to comment, as did McDonald-Richards' family.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921