NORWICH _ Inside a packed Chenango County courtroom Thursday, George Ford Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder.
At 3:03 a.m. July 8, 2007, on desolate Will Warner Road near South Otselic, Ford deliberately ran over 12-year-old Shyanne Somers with his four-wheel-drive pickup, the court found.
The night before, Shyanne had come to his seasonal house in South Otselic to baby-sit, and he was supposed to be driving her home.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 18 in Norwich.
Three weeks ago, Ford, 44, waived his right to a jury trial, leaving his fate in the hands of the presiding judge, Joseph F. Cawley of Broome County.
On Thursday, Ford, a former butcher and contractor from Piscataway, N.J., entered the courtroom from the front, facing a phalanx of police along the back wall. All seats were taken except for the few around him, where security was tighter than usual.
Cawley entered, stating he would permit ``no audible reaction'' when he rendered his verdict.
Then, at about 3:03 p.m., he pronounced: ``After due deliberation, I find the people have met the burden of proof for second-degree murder.''
The sentence will be from 15 years-to-life to 25 years-to-life.
Ford, whose fate was largely determined by the GPS receiver that his wife, Cindy, had hidden under his truck seat, closed his eyes.
The Somers family embraced and consoled each other. Then the guards closed in on the defense table, where Ford sat with his attorney, Randel Scharf of Cooperstown.
People filed out quickly, while Kathryn Somers and Cindy Ford, who have become close, embraced and remained behind to be escorted around the reporters.
Ford's wife was key
At the courthouse door, Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride praised Cindy Ford for telling police about the Tracking Key GPS device she'd bought on eBay to monitor her husband's suspected trysts in New Jersey.
``She had the courage and strength to come forward and tell us about the GPS,'' said McBride. ``Without Cindy Ford, without the GPS, all we'd know is he wasn't telling the truth about how that little girl died.''
For up to three hours before she died, Shyanne was alone with Ford, parked by a remote, empty seasonal residence, the GPS shows.
Although tests of the girl's body showed no sign of sexual abuse, ``a lot of sexual crimes don't leave any evidence,'' McBride said. ``Who knows what happened. He'd already broken the law by taking her up there. He silenced the only witness who could testify against him.''
The district attorney made the case that Ford, who tested positive for cocaine on the day of the incident, was so afraid of returning to prison that he murdered the girl and staged an accident rather than let her talk.
In 1993, Ford was convicted of a drug offense in Arizona and spent time in prison.
During McBride's cross-examined Tuesday, he asked, ``Did you ever say you were afraid to go back to prison?''
``I said I'd never put myself in that position,'' Ford said.
``Tell the court how they treat child molesters in prison,'' the DA asked.
``What do they do to them?''
After a pause, Ford said, in a low voice, ``Many things.''
Ford will be held at the Chenango County jail without bail for another three months awaiting sentencing.
Minutes after McBride met with reporters, Scharf said Ford will appeal the verdict.
``It won't be easy, though, with a bench trial,'' he said ``But George will appeal the evidence used at this trial.''
Cindy Ford speaks
about son, husband
On Thursday night, Cindy Ford said, ``I'm happy for the Somers; they got the verdict they wanted, but I'm not happy for my son.
``How do you tell a 4-year-old that his dad won't be coming home anymore?" she said. "Because no matter what, that's his dad, and he misses him.''
Ford said she was surprised by the verdict.
``I thought it might be something less than murder,'' she said. ``I went both ways during the trial _ from thinking he couldn't have killed her deliberately, to thinking maybe he did.''
The Fords met at a Pathmark supermarket where he was a butcher, she said. They've been married eight years, but their marriage began to crumble when George had an affair with another woman.
``I'm getting a divorce; I talked to the lawyer today, but it has nothing to do with the trial,'' said Cindy Ford, who operates a pet-grooming business. ``I was getting ready to divorce him before this happened, and because of all this, I haven't been able to do anything.''
Ford said she and the Somers have helped each other through the ordeal of the last year and a half, when their lives were turned upside down.
``We've all been hurt, and somehow we've bonded,'' she said.
After Shyanne died, James and Kathryn Somers and their two sons moved from their log cabin on state Route 26 in South Otselic. The parents have filed for divorce and now live apart.
Both have said they would prefer not to talk about what they've been through.
On Tuesday, at his home on state Route 12 Sherburne, James Somers showed reporters prized photos of his daughter, ones showing a little girl growing up in the country, doted on by her two older brothers.
``I hope you can just look at these," he said, "see how it was, and know how I feel.''
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Night of July 7, 2007: George Ford Jr. runs over baby sitter Shyanne Somers, 12, of South Otselic. He brings her body to Chenango Memorial Hospital in the early hours of July 8.
July 8, 2007: Ford is charged with
first-degree reckless endangerment.
Aug. 15, 2007: GPS evidence leads police to charge Ford with second-degree murder.
Aug. 20, 2007: Ford is ordered held without bail.
January 2008: Trial date set after
multiple postponements; Ford requests trial by judge, not jury.
Feb. 2, 2009: Trial begins; witnesses include Ford's wife, Shyanne's father.
Feb. 13 and 17, 2009: Ford testifies.
Feb. 19, 2009: Ford is found guilty.