Updated: 05/30/2014 6:22 PM
Created: 05/30/2014 7:13 AM WHEC.com
By: Rachel Spotts
A Utica man was convicted by a jury Friday for beating his girlfriend to death inside her dorm room in Brockport.
Just moments after hearing Clayton Whittemore was found guilty of murder, the victim’s mother posted a message on Twitter saying, “Justice for my beautiful baby.” It was also an emotional moment inside the courtroom. Friends of the victim were seen hugging and crying, along with the district attorney.
Alexandra Kogut was just 18-years-old when she was killed. Investigators say her body was found inside her dorm room at the College at Brockport back in September 2012.
Clayton Whittemore could spend the rest of his life behind bars. On Friday morning, a twelve person jury, mostly men, found him guilty of murder in the second-degree.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said, “I've been talking with the grandparents and the family. They've wanted me from the beginning to fight for Alex, and I did in that courtroom.”
The jury found Clayton Whittemore guilty of killing his girlfriend, Alexandra Kogut. Doorley says of all the murders she’s seen, this is by far the most brutal and violent.
Doorley said, “I don't believe that the extreme emotional disturbance was a reason for this. I believe this was driven by anger and rage.”
As soon as the verdict came in, family and friends of Alex Kogut began crying and hugging each other. Whittemore’s mom and sister were also overcome with emotion. They didn’t want to talk with us.
Defense attorney Mark Curley wouldn’t comment on the verdict, but was visibly upset with the outcome. He did say very briefly he was surprised the jury came to a decision in just a couple of hours.
Alex Kogut’s mom has been sharing pictures of Alex on Twitter. After the verdict, her mom tweeted “Justice for my beautiful baby.”
Doorley says this case was personal.
Doorley said, “I've tried many cases in my life, many murder cases, and always during that I feel some connection with the victim. In this case, I did feel a connection, and I felt like I needed to be her voice in the courtroom and I needed to fight for her.”
Doorley is asking for the maximum penalty for Clayton Whittemore, which is 25 years to life behind bars. Judge Doyle has scheduled the sentencing for July 15.
Reaction from Kogut's friends
The case touched many in the Rochester area, especially at the College at the Brockport, where Kogut was a freshman.
Right now, most of the students are gone for the summer, but there are still reminders on campus of their support for Alex Kogut.
Paige Whitney, Kogut’s friend, said, “I was very anxious before we went into the courtroom and then I was just overcome with emotion. Relief struck me first, and then a sense of sadness because relief does not bring me back my friend. The guilty verdict doesn't bring back my friend."
Paige Whitney grew up with Alex Kogut near Utica, New York. They were close friends. They both ended up attending the College at Brockport and competed on the swim team together. It’s been a difficult year and a half for Whitney, trying to continue on knowing she won’t see her friend again, but she says gone doesn’t have to mean forgotten.
Whitney said, "At first, it was very difficult to kind of walk past things that would just remind me of her, but I kind of turned that negative into a positive. She was a beautiful girl who lived a beautiful life and so those memories are now positive."
She covered the trees on campus with purple ribbons as the trial of Alex’s killer began. She joined with her mother, Sandra Whitney, who started the Purple Pinkie charitable foundation in Alex’s memory to raise awareness of relationship violence.
Sandra Whitney said, "Although this verdict was one we all anticipated and justice was truly served in this case, there are still many victims, abusers and their families that are suffering from the effects of anger and rage."
Brockport President John R. Halstead released a statement Friday saying, "The College at Brockport community would like to extend our sincere gratitude to our University Police, the New York State Police, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and everyone else who was involved in bringing Clayton Whittemore to justice. While today was an important step in bringing closure to our community, no verdict can bring back Alex Kogut or alleviate the grief of her family. We will continue our efforts to heighten awareness of relationship violence and hope to see the day when such horrific acts are no longer a part of society.”