HUNTINGTON — A Huntington woman confessed to the 2017 stabbing death of her husband Monday, stating he was accidentally stabbed as part of sexual foreplay they often performed in their relationship.
Jennifer Lynn Via, 49, pleaded guilty before Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard on Monday to voluntary manslaughter in the death of her husband, Thomas Via. He was stabbed in the back with a 14-inch-long decorative dagger Nov. 4, 2017, at their home in the 900 block of 28th Street in Huntington. She had been charged with first-degree murder about 10 days after his death after detectives felt her story did not line up with evidence.
As part of her plea, Via admitted she had been the one to place the knife in her husband’s back. The knife penetrated seven inches into his back, striking his heart and causing him to bleed to death internally.
Howard sentenced her to the maximum 15 years, but that sentence could be reduced to anywhere between three to 15 years at a hearing Aug. 19 after an investigation into her past personal and criminal history is completed.
On the night of her husband’s death, Via called Cabell County 911 to stay he had been accidentally stabbed while horse-playing.
Former Huntington police detective Chris Sperry previously said Via had given family and law enforcement agents several stories of how her husband had died and attempted just days after his death to collect an $80,000 life insurance policy that had been increased weeks before the incident.
The varying stories included that he had slipped on water and fell into an old knife or screwdriver. Huntington Detective Chris Sperry said Via said they had been mimicking a ninja superhero movie and she accidentally stabbed her husband as he stood up from a bent-over position while dumping water into a toilet.
At her plea hearing Monday, Via said the pair had been playing around with a dagger when the knife pierced him.
"My husband and I liked to fight and have sex and then make up, if that's the right way to say that," she said. "He wasn't supposed to get hurt, but it did happen."
Defense attorney Kerry Nessel said the situation had gotten out of hand, most likely due to alcohol.
"As strange as this is, they watched these Kung Fu movies and it led to, what I would tell a jury, foreplay, which was both of them getting pretty violent with each other while playing with weapons," he said. "That's what led to this.”
Defense previously had argued Via was a battered woman, but detectives previously testified neighbors had seen Via as the aggressor in the relationship.
Defense attorney Abe Saad said Via was guilty of voluntary manslaughter because she had intent to use the knife, but not to cause actual harm to the victim.
Cabell prosecutor Sean “Corky” Hammers said otherwise.
"We would be arguing, just on the facts itself and the background, that it was no accident,” he said.
Via is currently housed at Western Regional Jail in Barboursville.
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