updated 11/21/2006 6:47:05 PM ET 2006-11-21T23:47:05

The former acting mayor of a sleepy mill town on the Alabama-Georgia line was convicted Tuesday of murdering his wife while on a lunch break eight years ago.

Jurors found former Lanett city Councilman Barry Waites guilty in the 1998 murder of Charlotte Waites after four hours of deliberation, helping to close a political murder mystery that has divided the small town for years.

Suspicion first pointed at Waites in 2000, when a political challenger at a campaign forum accused him of killing his wife.

Judge Tom Young revoked Waites’ bond and set sentencing for Dec.

14. Waites, who could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison, was led from the courtroom by deputies.

He showed no emotion when the verdict was announced and had no comment. Some in the courtroom dabbed at their eyes.

The acting mayor of Lanett when his wife was killed, Waites sat quietly as prosecutors characterized him as a brazen killer who went home and beat his wife to death on a lunch break in an argument over money.

Defense attorney Jim Parkman told the jury that his client was an innocent man who got caught up in a small town’s need to blame someone for the grisly murder.

“They said we’ve got to do something about this case. We’ve got to find somebody guilty,” Parkman said.

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