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Max sentence in homecoming queen slay case

Undated handout images show Kalila Taylor, left, who

Undated handout images show Kalila Taylor, left, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1996 killing of Curtisha Morning. Credit: SCPD/Handout

Once again, the woman convicted of hacking to death a Riverhead High School homecoming queen 16 years ago was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

It was the second time Kalila Taylor, now 35, got the maximum sentence for second-degree murder in the killing of Curtisha Morning, 17. Taylor was convicted of the crime in 1999, but an appellate court threw out the conviction in 2004, ruling that she was prejudiced by faulty jury instructions. She was convicted again last month of stabbing Morning at least 94 times on Feb. 29, 1996.

State Supreme Court Justice William Condon gave her the maximum sentence Thursday. He explained, "Miss Morning was not shown any mercy, and I'm not inclined to show any here."

It took more than seven years to retry Taylor because several judges found she was not mentally competent to stand trial after she wrote dozens of bizarre letters from prison. In them, she said a detective framed her by using a device that cloned people from snakes. She said it wasn't Morning who was killed, but a clone, and that Taylor's own clone could be responsible for the murder.

Treatment and heavy medication eventually allowed her to be judged competent to stand trial again.

Thursday, Taylor greeted her attorney, John LoTurco, with a broad smile when she entered the courtroom, but looked down and fidgeted as she listened to others.

In 1996, Morning was about to go to college to get a nursing degree and some day hoped to be a doctor, said Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson, but that dream was ended by an "incredible, brutal attack" that came after the father of Taylor's child showed a romantic interest in Morning.

"She was beyond killed," said Morning's aunt, Teresa Langhorne, in a letter that Albertson read in court. "A person who could kill beyond killed is not human."

Even before the murder, Albertson said Taylor "was already an incredibly violent and unstable young woman." She was on probation for another stabbing at the time and had been suspended from school for "assaultive behavior."

Morning's older sister, Patrina Morning, told Condon that her sister "believed in education. She wanted to become something in life."

LoTurco said his client continues to say she's innocent and will appeal again.

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