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Natasha Wallen Cornett (born January 26, 1979) is an American criminal currently serving a sentence of life without parole at the Tennessee Prison For Women in Nashville for her involvement in the Lillelid murders. Professionals involved with troubled teens see the life of Natasha Cornett as a warning of the failures of the school, mental health and criminal justice systems in preventive treatment.[1]

Early life[edit]

Cornett was born into poverty in rural Pike County, located in Eastern Kentucky. Cornett's mother Madonna Wallen was not married to her biological father, a local police officer named Roger Burgess with whom Madonna was having an affair.[2] When Natasha was young, her mother left her husband, Ed Wallen [3] and Madonna raised Natasha alone as a single mom in a trailer located in the outskirts of Pikeville, Kentucky.[2] By junior high school Cornett was alienated from her fellow students due to her unconventional behavior.[3] She suffered from anorexia and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which went largely untreated due to lack of health insurance.[2] Sometime during her freshman year of high school Cornett dropped out.

Married to a long time friend named Stephen Cornett on her 17th birthday, Natasha told Women's Entertainment Network interviewers in a 2009 documentary that when Stephen ended the marriage after only a matter of months she was "devastated".[3]

Cornett had embraced the Goth subculture manner of black clothing and dark "doom-ridden music".[2] Also at this time Cornett was abusing drugs and alcohol and practicing self-mutilation, activities she had been involved with since her early teen years. Young people similarly inclined were drawn to Cornett and she became the informal leader the group.

Lillelid murders[edit]

On April 6, 1997, Cornett, looking to escape what was to her the boredom, poverty, and general unhappiness of life in Pikeville, took to the road with five other disaffected youths: Edward Dean Mullins, 19; Joseph Lance Risner, 20; Crystal R. Sturgill, 18; Jason Blake Bryant, 14; and Karen R. Howell, 17. The gang was hoping to start a new life in New Orleans.[3] By chance, they met the Lillelid family at an interstate highway rest area in Greeneville, Tennessee. Norway-born Vidar Lillelid (age 34), his American wife Delfina (28), their daughter Tabitha (6) and son Peter (2) were Jehovah's Witnesses hoping to convert the troubled youths. Instead, the gang kidnapped the Lillelid family, then shot each family member on a deserted Baileyton, Tennessee road. Vidar and Delfina were found dead, while Tabitha died after being transported to the hospital. Peter, who was found lying in a ditch, was the only survivor. He had been shot once in the torso and once through the eye. As a result of the shooting, he was left blind in one eye and permanently disabled.[4] Two days after the shootings, Cornett and the five others were taken into custody by US Customs and Immigration officials in Arizona while trying to cross into Mexico in the Lillelid family's stolen van.[4][5]

The trial[edit]

At the trial held in Greeneville, Tennessee, Cornett, then 19, was convicted in March 13, 1998 with the five other youths for the murders. Her conviction was the result of a plea bargain where Cornett pled guilty to all charges against her to avoid a possible death sentence.[6] Although she took the plea bargain, court testimony strongly established she did not participate in the actual shooting of the four victims.[2] During her own testimony Cornett claimed she tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the deaths. They all admitted to 1st degree murder and each received 3 life sentences.[7]

Life in prison[edit]

Since her arrival at the prison in Nashville, Cornett has earned her GED and a certification in cosmetology.[3] In a 2007 article published in The Knoxville News, Madonna Wallen stated that her daughter serves as a mentor for some fellow inmates as they work to earn their GEDs.[4]

On August 24, 2001, death row inmate Christa Pike with alleged assistance from Natasha Cornett attacked fellow prisoner Patricia Jones and nearly strangled her to death with a shoe string after Pike and Jones were placed in a holding cell with Cornett during a fire alarm.[8] Although the Department of Corrections believed that Cornett was involved, investigators found insufficient evidence to charge her with helping Pike, who was subsequently found guilty of attempted murder.[9]

References[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natasha_Cornett — Please support Wikipedia.
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