This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Donna Lou Bott gave this advice to her granddaughter: "Live your life happy-go-lucky. Just live. Be happy."
Emily Neaman responded by sending Bott the happiest photograph of herself she could find.
But before Bott could write back, the 72-year-old woman was brutally murdered in her Salt Lake City home - a slaying for which Floyd Eugene Maestas was convicted by a 3rd District Court jury last week.
Testifying Wednesday during the penalty phase of Maestas' capital murder trial, Neaman said she came across the photo of herself while cleaning up the murder scene.
"I found that picture by her bedside, splattered with blood," Neaman testified.
Bott was beaten, strangled, stabbed and stomped hard enough that her aorta ruptured.
Bott's niece, Phyllis Hancey, struggled to hold back tears as she testified that Bott was "the last link to . . . that generation of our family.
"My mother had passed away and [Bott] was the last one who was there."
The victim impact testimony wrapped up the prosecution's case in support of the death penalty for Maestas, 52, who was also convicted of a break-in and robbery at an 86-year-old woman's home the same night Bott was killed.
The defense began its case with testimony from a now-retired Durango, Colo., police officer who responded to the fatal stabbing of Maestas' older sister in 1963.
Chris Wiggins testified that 14-year-old Charlotte Maestas was killed with a letter opener during an argument with her boyfriend.
The defense claims Maestas, who was then 7, witnessed the attack - just one of the horrors Maestas experienced while growing up in the poverty stricken area of Durango known as Mexican Flats.
During the next two weeks, the defense is expected to present evidence that Maestas was beaten, sexually abused and exposed to substance abuse as a child.
During an opening statement on Tuesday, defense attorney David Mack told jurors that because of Maestas' chaotic upbringing and low intelligence, he is less culpable than someone with a higher IQ and a normal childhood.
Mack asked the jury to grant Maestas "mercy" by sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole, rather than death.