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A three-judge panel on Friday sentenced a male stripper to 25 years to life in prison for killing a female impersonator with a samurai sword. Michael Jennings, 34, could have received the death penalty for the 2002 slaying of Gary McMurtry. His lawyers had said they opted for the panel instead of a jury because they felt judges would better understand the defense that Jennings was insane at the time of the crime. Jennings, whose stage name was Devon, was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and felonious assault for an attack on McMurtry’s roommate, Brian Bass. He testified he believed McMurtry — with whom he worked for years — and another roommate were out to get him. Prosecutors say Jennings, dressed in a black ninja outfit with a hood, broke into McMurtry’s home, stabbed McMurtry 13 times and slashed Bass with the sword when Bass confronted him. Jennings testified Thursday that he killed McMurtry, but lied about it to police and his family for two years, saying he didn’t want to admit to the murder “because that’s not what I thought I did.” His lawyers sought an acquittal because Jennings was diagnosed with psychosis and paranoia five years ago. “I do feel what I did was a move of self-defense,” Jennings said. “I was sad and surprised that I actually did it. I didn’t plan it out very well or I might have gotten away with it.” Court records show Jennings was ruled incompetent to stand trial in December 2002 and was committed to a Columbus mental health facility, where he was injected with anti-psychotic medications under court order until he was ruled competent in February. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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