W.Va. woman pleads guilty to husband's murder
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An Elkview woman has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting her estranged husband in his Charleston hospital bed.
Rhonda K. Stewart pleaded guilty on Thursday to second-degree murder with use of a firearm in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Media outlets report that Stewart was scheduled to be retried for first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting of Sammy Stewart. The 56-year-old was killed in Charleston Area Medical Center Memorial Hospital's intensive-care unit while being treated for pancreatitis.
In 2010, Stewart was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years following a jury conviction. But in November 2011, the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Stewart, ruling the jury should have heard claims that she had been beaten and abused by Sammy Stewart throughout their 38-year marriage.
Prosecutor Mark S. Plants said the plea deal was a win in light of the newly admissible evidence.
"It might have happened that this jury let her walk out of here free," Plants said. "I secured a second degree murder conviction with a potential 40-year sentence based on those facts and the defendents age, it was in the best interest of the public."
Stewart, who can no longer appeal because of the plea agreement, declined to comment after her court appearance.
Stewart has been on home confinement for about a year and will remain on house arrest until her sentencing on March 19. She faces between 10 and 40 years in prison when sentenced March 19, but the judge also may consider alternate sentences including home confinement.