Q: What ever happened with the murder case of Michael Perry, who was shot and killed in approximately 1995 by someone who turned out to be connected to his wife?
A: Five years after the shooting death of her husband, Joan Lisa Featherston admitted that she hired his killer.
Featherston pleaded guilty in 1992 to first-degree murder in the March 25,1987 death of 37-year-old Michael Anthony Perry. She had been the prosecution’s first witness at the 1987 trial of Elwin Keith Lay II, who Featherston said shot Perry as she and her husband walked through an open field near their Foothill Farms home. She testified that she had never seen Lay before he stepped up to them and shot and killed her husband.
According to stories in The Sacramento Bee, the jury convicted Lay of second-degree murder, but returned a finding that he didn’t personally use a gun, indicating jurors believed that although Lay shared the blame, it was Featherston who had done the killing. Investigators at that time had no corroboration of Lay’s testimony that Featherston was responsible for the killing, so she remained free.
But in 1990, statements by a 23-year-old man, who at one time had been Featherston’s live-in lover, permitted sheriff’s detectives to reopen the case, and Featherston was arrested and charged with her husband’s murder.
Lay subsequently was returned to Sacramento and admitted at Featherston’s preliminary hearing that he had, indeed, fired the shot that killed Perry. But he testified that Featherston had promised him $5,000 from the insurance proceeds to do so. Featherston reportedly received about $157,000 from a U.S. government death benefits policy and $17,000 from an insurance policy.
She was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison and ordered to pay back more than $175,000 in death benefits. Now 55 years old, Featherston is at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowcilla.
Lay was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. His name does not appear in the online roster of current California State Prison inmates.