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Man pleads to voluntary manslaughter in shooting death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- 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, 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.


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