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Evangelist guilty of starving child

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Evangelist Mary Nicholson was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse Tuesday in the starvation death of 4-year-old Kimberly McZinc in 1988. Ms. Nicholson, 40, of Pace refused to comment on the verdict returned by jurors after about four hours of deliberation. She showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

The child's father, Kenneth McZinc, 50, said he was surprised that jurors convicted Ms. Nicholson of first-degree murder, "but I am glad to see someone's paying for my daughter's death.

"I thought they might reach a compromise," McZinc said, noting that jurors knew that Kimberly's mother, Darlene Jackson, pleaded guilty last March to third-degree murder and child abuse in her daughter's beating and starvation death on Feb. 8, 1988.

Ms. Jackson, 33, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence, told jurors last week that Nicholson convinced her that Kimberly was possessed by demonic spirits that could be exorcised only through strict diet and discipline. She was the state's key witness in Ms. Nicholson's seven-day trial.

Other witnesses testified that Kimberly weighed only 28{ pounds when she died. A child her age and height should have weighed about 45 pounds. Several times she was described as looking like a starving Ethiopian child.

Ms. Jackson and Kimberly had lived in a mobile home with Ms. Nicholson.

Santa Rosa Circuit Judge George Lowrey ordered a pre-sentence investigation into Ms. Nicholson's background, saying he would set a sentencing date when the report is completed.

Assistant State Attorney Kim Skievaski had said earlier he would not seek the death penalty for Ms. Nicholson.

The only other penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The aggravated child abuse conviction also is punishable by up to life in prison.