TUSCUMBIA -- Jurors recommended Monday that Anthony Lee Stanley spend the rest of his life in prison for the June 2005 beating and stabbing death of 52-year-old Henry Earl Smith.

Stanley, 41, was convicted of capital murder Friday in Colbert County Circuit Court.

His wife, Shelly, pleaded guilty to murder and received a sentence of life in prison in exchange for her testimony against her husband.

A jury of four men and eight women deliberated Stanley's fate for about 35 minutes Monday before recommending he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Circuit Judge Hal Hughston will decide at a later date whether to accept the recommendation or override the jury's decision. He could sentence Stanley to death.

Prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty because of the brutal nature of the case.

Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr. argued there was sufficient grounds to sentence Stanley to death.

Graham told the jury that Stanley had killed Smith during the course of a robbery and that the murder was especially "heinous and atrocious."

According to testimony, Smith begged for his life as he was being stabbed with steak knives in the floor of the Stanleys' Tuscumbia apartment.

Testimony indicated the couple were broke and desperate for drugs when they concocted a scheme to lure Smith to their residence and rob him.

Smith had apparently sold the couple drugs in the past, based on testimony.

Shelly Stanley testified that her husband planned the robbery, but defense attorney B.T. Gardner Jr. argued that it was Shelly Stanley who actually stabbed Smith to death.

Defense attorney Bill Marthaler asked the jury to extend the same sympathy to Stanley that the state extended to Shelly Stanley by allowing her to plead guilty to murder.

"The State of Alabama made a deal with the devil in this case -- Shelly Stanley," Marthaler said.

Before their closing arguments, Smith's daughters testified that their father's death has left a whole in their lives. They said the hardest part was explaining the loss to Jennifer Rhodes' grandchildren.

"I don't figure I'll ever be the same person that I was before," said Smith's youngest daughter, Christy Smith.

She said her father loved to cook, hunt fish and watch NASCAR racing.

"I don't feel like I've lost him," Smith said. "I feel like he was taken from me."

Rhodes said she was satisfied that Stanley would be spending his life in prison.

"Obviously, our main concern was getting the conviction of capital murder," she said. "We appreciate the jury's verdict on that."

Smith testified that she suspected her father of being involved in drugs.

Dorothy Stanley offered condolences to the Smith family and testified that she feels that drugs took her son away from her.

She said her son has changed tremendously since becoming clean and sober.

Stanley's father, Charles Stanley, said he could not describe the impact his son's actions have had on their family.

"It's torn our family apart," he said. "It's really hurt me terribly."

Despite seeking the death penalty, Graham said he was satisfied with the jury's recommendation.

"To me, either sentence is sufficient," Graham said.

Russ Corey can be reached at 740-5738 or russ.corey@timesdaily.com.

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