Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Suzanne Basso and the Murder of Louis 'Buddy' Musso

The Jail Cell Diet

Suzanne Basso shrunk by more than half while awaiting trial.

She weighed 350 pounds at the time of her arrest. Eleven months later, she weighed 140.

She insisted on using a wheelchair and claimed paralysis, mental problems, and chest and stomach pain. She also said she had regressed to her childhood and spoke in a squeaky, little-girl voice.

A court-appointed shrink judged that she was faking, and Judge Keel agreed at a competency hearing that Basso was capable of facing trial.

Each day she was wheeled into court. She appeared unkempt, and she sat morosely at the defense table, sometimes scowling and sometimes appearing not to pay attention, according to Houston Chronicle court reporter Steve Brewer.

As in the other trials, the jurors heard the defendant's confession.

Prosecutor Colleen Barnett
Prosecutor Colleen Barnett
 

Basso told police that she hit Musso with a belt but tried to deflect blame on the five others.

Hope Ahrens said it happened differently.

She took the witness stand to say that she saw Basso beat Musso with her fists, a belt and a vacuum-cleaner attachment. She said Basso jumped up and down on Musso as he collapsed on his punishment mat. Ahrens said Basso encouraged O'Malley to kick the victim with his steel-toed combat boots.

"Musso was moaning when he went down. Then she hit him again on the back after she hit him on the groin," Ahrens said.

It came as no surprise when the jury convicted Sue Basso of capital murder. Jurors then had to choose between life and death for the woman.

During the penalty phase, Basso's own daughter, Christianna Hardy, was the prosecution's marquee witness. The young woman recounted a miserable childhood. She said, "There was sexual abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse. Any kind of abuse she could inflict."

Psychologist Floyd Jennings said of Basso, "She is a whining complainer to whom people would wish to say, 'Get away from me.'"

Defense attorneys argued that Basso was not a future threat to society.

But jurors were unmoved. After six hours of discussion, they judged that no mitigating circumstances could lead them to vote for life in prison.

Judge Keel announced the death sentence.

Basso slumped in her wheelchair and wept. As she was wheeled out of court, she cried in her little-girl voice, "I am not guilty."

But prosecutors deemed that justice had been served.

Colleen Barnett said, "I've seen a bunch of evil in my job as a prosecutor, but she exhibits so many different demonic traits that it's hard to see her as anything but an evil-minded person."

 

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