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1:54 PM Thu, Dec. 13th

Jury finds three escape suspects guilty, acquits fourth

After a day and a half of deliberation, a six men, six women jury handed down guilty verdicts Friday to three of the four suspects, accused in their involvement of a failed escape attempt in June of an inmate from the Mohave County Jail.

Eugene Cofsky, 41, of Kingman; Tracy Date, 36, of Shore View, Minn.; and Ronald Manning, 43, of Las Vegas; were found guilty for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree escape, both felonies, in the attempt to kill a corrections officer and free David Goldberg, an inmate at the jail, as he was being taken from the jail to the courthouse.

Wiping away tears, the fourth suspect, Sheri Cofsky, 36, of Kingman, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree escape.

The jury also found Date and Manning not guilty for theft of a handgun.

Manning was found guilty for misconduct involving a weapon.

Superior Court Judge Steven Conn thanked the jury who deliberated into the night Thursday and part of Friday before reaching their verdict.

"I have been involved in about 300 jury trials and this was probably the most complicated and confusing case I've been involved with," Conn said.

"Because of the number of defendants, it was a difficult verdict for you to reach."

Conn set Feb.

16 as Eugene Cofsky's sentencing date.

Date's will be sentenced Feb.

23 and Manning will be sentenced March 2.

Eugene Cofsky, Date and Manning are held without bond.

The conspiracy to commit murder charge could net the three life sentences with a possibility for parole in 25 years.

"I can't complain of the verdict," Deputy County Attorney Derek Carlisle said.

"The jury obviously took a lot of time and looked at all the evidence."

Sheri Cofsky's attorney, Billy Sipe Jr., said he was pleased by the verdict.

He did not think her gender played a role in the decision.

"There simply was no credible evidence that she was involved in any conspiracy," Sipe said.

"The evidence was stronger against the other three."

The hunt for the suspects began June 8, when an inmate at a Las Vegas jail tipped off law enforcement officers about the escape attempt.

Officers staked out the area near the jail June 12, when they learned that Goldberg had an 11:30 a.m.

hearing that morning in superior court.

Officers also staked out the Cofsky's home east of Kingman a few days before.

The Cofskys were co-defendants of Goldberg in a previous drug case.

On the morning of June 12, Manning driving a van, Date and his girl friend, Tawanee Barrett in another car, the Cofskys in their truck and a sixth suspect, Dennis Schilinski, in a stolen vehicle, all met downtown.

Date and Manning reportedly took the back seat out of the van and proceeded toward the jail leaving Barrett in a vehicle a block away from the courthouse.

Officers arrested Date and Manning in the van near the jail.

The Cofskys were arrested as they were leaving the courthouse.

Schilinski, who was driving nearby and Barrett, found sitting in the parked vehicle, were also arrested.

Richard Edward Gilbert, 44, who was arrested along with the Cofskys in one of the county's largest drug bust last February, Goldberg and the Cofskys were found to be participants with a methamphetamine operation at the isolated residence several months ago, records show.

Goldberg was convicted three months ago on the drug charges and sentenced to seven years in prison, records show.

The Cofskys were found guilty in November for drug charges.

Eugene Cofsky was sentenced to 10 1/2 years and Sheri Cofsky was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Gilbert was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in state prison.

Schilinski, who pleaded guilty in November in his part of the escape attempt, was sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiracy to commit first degree escape and theft.

Barrett also pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to commit escape.

She was then released from custody and had a court date in October when she disappeared, records show.

After two months on the run, Barrett was arrested again in Las Vegas last month.

She is currently back in Mohave County Jail and is expected to be sentenced Tuesday.