Man convicted of killing couple, burying them in mom's yard

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Alan Champagne, 46. (Source: Department of Corrections) Alan Champagne, 46. (Source: Department of Corrections)
PHOENIX (AP) -

An Arizona man has been convicted on murder charges in the deaths of two people whose bodies were buried in his mother's backyard.

A jury on Tuesday found Alan Champagne, 46, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Brandi Nicole Hoffner and second-degree murder in the killing of Philmon Tapaha. He also was convicted of kidnapping and abandoning or concealing a dead body.

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A hearing will begin Monday to establish whether there were aggravating factors in the case, which will determine whether Champagne is eligible for a death sentence in Hoffner's killing.

Investigators say Champagne fatally shot Tapaha and choked Hoffner to death at his apartment in 2011, put their bodies in the plywood box, poured lime inside it to help the bodies decompose and buried it a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) away at his mother's home.

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The big break in the case came in March 2013 when a landscaper at a home where Champagne's mother used to live had discovered the mummified corpses buried in the backyard.

No clear motive has emerged, but police say Champagne had been smoking methamphetamine an hour before the killings and was feuding with Tapaha over a relationship.

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After Tapaha was shot in the face, prosecutors say Champagne strangled Hoffner with an electrical cable while was she puffing on a glass bong.

Champagne previously served 14 years in prison after pleading no-contest to killing a man in 1991 while high on alcohol, LSD and paint fumes. He completed the murder sentence in June 2005.

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