By Zac Taylor
The Charleston Gazette
(MCT) CHARLESTON -- A Boone County man admitted Monday to charges in the death of Michelle Gillispie, whom he said he shot in the head accidentally.
John Edward Hudson, 38, of Ashford, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter for shooting Gillispie "under sudden excitement" moments after he disarmed her of a loaded gun she had pulled out, prosecutors said.
Hudson said that on Jan. 27, Gillispie, 38, was upset about a post that her boyfriend, Mark Southern, wrote on the social networking site Facebook when she pulled out the weapon and said she was going to shoot him, according to Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Jennifer Meadows. Hudson was staying with Southern and Gillispie at their home in Winifrede.
"This is a compromised plea," Meadows said. "Both sides had risk. We ran the risk that they would buy his story and let him go with involuntary manslaughter."
Involuntary manslaughter is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year jail term.
Monday's plea agreement calls for prosecutors to invoke state recidivism laws, which tacks an additional five years to the minimum and maximum range of Hudson's voluntary manslaughter sentence. With the recidivism enhancement, Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman may sentence Hudson to eight to 20 years in prison.
In 1999, Hudson served more than five years in federal prison on drug distribution charges.
Prosecutors also agreed to drop two grand larceny charges Hudson faced for reportedly stealing Southern's living room TV, a game system and tools from his garage before taking off in Gillispie's car while the woman lay dead in the bedroom of her house.
Police said Hudson later attempted to sell the stolen items at a pawn shop.
Meadows said the slaying might have been tied to drugs, but they did not have evidence of anything concrete.
"The problem is we don't know exactly what happened," Meadows said. "His story was that he had been staying with her and her boyfriend. She had seen a comment on her boyfriend's Facebook. She was jealous. She got the gun out and was telling him she was going to shoot at Mark Southern."
But investigators could not find evidence that told a different story, she said. The distance at which Gillispie was shot -- five to eight feet -- the position of her body, the lack of a witness and the lack of a concrete motive didn't conflict with Hudson's original story.
"It didn't poke any holes in his story basically that would have made our argument stronger that it was premeditated," she said. "It didn't prove or disprove that it happened the way he said it happened."
Meadows said the nebulous circumstances of Gillispie's death might have forced the jury to convict Hudson on involuntary manslaughter. The grand larceny charges, however, would have worked against him, she said.
Family members for Gillispie could not be reached for comment Monday. Hudson's sentencing is set for Feb. 19.
Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.
(c) 2012 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.)
Visit The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.) at www.wvgazette.com
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'Sudden excitement,' rather than premeditiation, cited in shooting fatality
By Cheryl Caswell
Charleston Daily Mail
(MCT) CHARLESTON -- A Boone County man will be sentenced for voluntary manslaughter in the January shooting death of a woman in her Chesapeake area home.
Prosecutors said John Edward Hudson, 39, of Ashford killed Michelle Lynn Gillispie, 39, under "sudden excitement." He was charged with first-degree murder but entered a Kennedy-Frazier plea to voluntary manslaughter.
That type of plea is often used when a defendant doesn't admit guilt but concedes there is enough evidence for a jury to convict.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a possible sentence of three to 15 years in prison. However, Hudson also pleaded guilty to being a recidivist because of previous felony charges and will see his sentence expanded by another five years.
Hudson was convicted in 1999 of aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine. He served a five-year, nine-month sentence and spent an additional five years on probation for that crime.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Meadows said, "He got a firearm -- a revolver -- to kill Michelle Gillispie. It was without premeditation and not intentional. It was done under sudden excitement."
In exchange for his plea, the state secured a letter from the federal prosecutor's office that it would not seek to charge Hudson for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman, however, said a federal or a state grand jury still could bring charges against him.
Charges of first-degree murder and grand larceny were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Hudson will be sentenced in February.
Gillispie was found dead in her Winifrede Hollow home Jan. 30. She died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Police said Hudson had been staying at Gillispie's home for a few months, but the two were not a couple.
Hudson said publicly after he was arrested that the shooting was an accident.
Police said Hudson fled the scene in Gillispie's vehicle and also stole several items from the home with the intention of pawning them. Family members said Hudson was a friend of Gillispie's and her boyfriend, Mark Southern, who found the body and called police.
Hudson turned himself in to police after the incident.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4832.
(c) 2012 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)
Visit the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.) at www.dailymail.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services.