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Tenn. Woman Convicted of Killing Professor Who'd Been Granted Custody of Her Children

Annette Harvey, 54, was found guilty of fatally stabbing her childhood friend who cared for her kids while she was being evaluated for mental health issues

<p>Court TV/Youtube</p> Annette Harvey

Court TV/Youtube

Annette Harvey

A Tennessee woman has been found guilty of killing a friend who had been given custody of her two children.

On Monday, a jury in Johnson City found Annette Harvey, 54, guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and commission of a felony in the 2021 stabbing death of East Tennessee State University psychology professor Robin Leonard, 50, the Johnson City Press reports.

The jury deliberated for three hours.

On Jan. 18, 2021, Harvey stabbed Leonard at her home multiple times, police said.

Leonard was taken to a local hospital where she died of her injuries 11 days later. Harvey fled the scene but was arrested later that day.

Harvey is scheduled to be sentenced on May 1 and faces life in prison. She was also fined $125,000.

Harvey’s attorney argued that she was suffering from a mental health crisis when she attacked Leonard, but was unable to get help from anyone, WCYB reports.

“Annette Harvey did not have the soundness of mind to think her way into the commission of a crime,” defense attorney Don Spurrell told the jury, WJHL reports.

Before the stabbing, Leonard had been given temporary custody of Harvey’s children when Harvey was sent for a mental health evaluation, News 5 reports.

After Harvey got out of the hospital, she kidnapped her children from Leonard. She tried to take them to the home of her former pastor, who turned her away.

Police were called and the children were returned to Leonard, who moved the children to another location for their safety, Court TV reports.

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On the morning of Jan. 18, 2021, Harvey showed up at Leonard’s house with a knife, where a struggle ensued, prosecutors said, WJHL reports.

When Harvey left the home, Leonard called 911 and told the dispatcher that Harvey had attacked her, prosecutors told the jury.

Leonard's family was grateful for the verdict.

"We want to thank the DA’s office for their really hard work on behalf of our sister, so that she could have justice,” Leonard's sister, Lara Leonard, said after the verdict, WJHL reports. “It will never bring her back. It will never make it okay. But, we realize the hard work of everyone involved and I know that she’s grateful for that too."

She and her family have fond memories of their lost loved one.

“She always took care of us when we were little. It was like we had to stand up for her no matter what. It wasn’t hard," she said. "It was a passion of love for our sister.”

Harvey's attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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