Ms Julie Marshall was a bereavement counsellor in a terminal cancer hospital in the town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and Mark Bowling was the local undertaker.
After regularly attending funeral services for her patients organised by Mark Bowling's funeral home, the two began going out in 1998 and finally married in August 2000, much to the approval of the people of Rocky Mount. It would have been hard to have found a more sober and responsible couple who provided such a valuable service to the community. Julie was friendly and caring, Mark immaculately dressed and reverential.
But behind the doors of the luxury home on the outskirts of Rocky Mount, things were not quite as they seemed.
Julie, 45 and eight years older than her husband, was infertile and unable to enjoy a normal life. And in 2005 Mark had begun to see one of his former lovers, Rose Vincent, now married with three children. Before long it was once more a passionate affair which occupied most of Mark Bowling's free time. If Julie Bowling knew about it, she preferred to turn a blind eye.
Mark and Rose had met again when Rose's elderly father had asked her to organise prepayments for his eventual funeral — and Rose knew exactly who to contact.
She had seen Bowling only occasionally since they had parted but felt as passionate about him as ever. The meeting to discuss her father's funeral plans ended in a passionate embrace in the room next to the coffins.
Over the next year their affair reignited and Bowling told her that she had always been the love of his life and always would be. Unfortunately there was definitely no way they could be together unless his wife was "out of the way."
The longer they were together the more obsessed Rose Vincent became with the stocky black-haired undertaker who was a pillar of Rocky Mount society.
She left her husband and moved with her three children into a shabby trailer home, supporting them with a part-time job in a supermarket and dreaming of the day when she and Bowling would be together.
Bowling realised that she would do anything, even murder, to keep him, and in December 2006 they began to discuss ways of killing Julie. One involved Rose shooting her rival through the head as she drove through a seedy part of town in the hope that the killing would be blamed on drug gangs which operated in that area.
The second plan was to kill Julie while she was visiting relatives in the distant town of Greenville. Again, Rose Vincent would do the deed. "There's no way I can do it — I need a watertight alibi," her lover explained. "I'm the first one they'll suspect."
When Rose refused to kill her rival, Bowling offered her $50,000 from the million he hoped to get from the life insurance he had taken out on Julie and this changed Rose's mind.
"I'll do it — but not for money," she told Bowling. "But because I love you."
So on December 8, 2006, Rose Vincent drove to the Bowling's house, set in its own tree-shaded grounds and parked her car out of sight. In her handbag she had a 1930s .32 revolver Bowling had given her before he left for Florida and a snorkelling trip on the Crystal River, thus giving himself a watertight alibi.
Before he left he had given her an ultimatum — killing Julie would prove how much she loved him. Julie Vincent later told a court: "I waited in the garage for Julie to come and get her car.
"It was as if I was standing beside myself and there was nothing I could do to stop what was going to happen. When Julie appeared to go to work I heard Mark's voice in my head saying: 'You've got to keep shooting her until the gun stops'." Rose remembered that Julie tried to run back into the house, but it was too late. Shaking from head to foot Rose fired again and again until Julie fell in a bleeding heap on the concrete floor.
When Julie failed to turn up for work or answer her mobile, a friend at the hospital, Linda Gardner, drove to the Bowling house t