Former Central Texas Woman Sentenced To Prison In Murder Conspiracy

Vera Guthrie-Nail (Jail photo)
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MCKINNEY (September 12, 2012)--A former Waco resident and 1984 China Spring High School graduate pleaded guilty Wednesday during the third day of her capital murder trial in McKinney and was sentenced to 50 years in state prison.

Vera Elizabeth Guthrie-Nail, 47, was on trial for capital murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder in connection with the 2008 death of her estranged husband.

Craig Nail, 36, was shot to death at his home on the day after Christmas in 2008 and his girlfriend, Therisa Hofman, was wounded when she walked into the house and encountered the assailant.

Testimony began Monday.

Wednesday, while one of Guthrie-Nail's co-defendants was testifying, she told her lawyer she wanted to plead guilty.

Guthrie-Nail reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder in exchange for a 50-year sentence.

The capital murder charge against her was dismissed and she forfeited her right to appeal.

She will be eligible for parole after 25 years.

According to prosecutors, Guthrie-Nail hired Mark Lyle Bell to kill Nail at his Frisco home on Pebblebrook Drive.

Bell pleaded guilty last year to capital murder in Nail's death and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorneys argued that Bell acted alone.

Guthrie-Nail's first trial ended abruptly last February in the same McKinney courtroom because of an issue that revolved around discovery, the rules by which the defense is entitled to see details of the prosecutor's case.

Thomas Edward Grace of Carrollton also was charged with conspiracy to commit capital murder.

He pleaded guilty as well and has been sentenced.

The Nails were involved in a bitter divorce case, which was filed in May 2006.

Detectives executed a search warrant two weeks after Guthrie-Nail's arrest at the home of her mother on Old China Spring Road and at an adjacent mobile home.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the warrant, a Frisco police detective interviewed a longtime friend of Guthrie-Nail's.

The woman said she visited with Guthrie-Nail after the shootings and said Guthrie-Nail told her "that she did not hire anyone to kill Craig, nor did she ask anyone to kill Craig, she did however know it was going to happen," the affidavit says.

The woman said Guthrie-Nail told her that the killer was someone in California who had been contacted by a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, to which Guthrie-Nail also belonged.

She said that person, who was not identified, watched her estranged husband's home for four months and intended to make the attack look like a murder-suicide.

Craig Nail's 16-year-old daughter was also supposed to have been killed, the affidavit says.

The affidavit indicates Guthrie-Nail did communicate with the killer on an older pay-as-you-go cell phone that had belonged to her mother and that she had told her mother to destroy the phone if police ever showed up at the house.

Before the woman left, she said Guthrie-Nail gave her a bag of documents and two .22 caliber rounds "from the same box of ammunition used to kill Craig," the affidavit says.