CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Elkview woman who walked into CAMC Memorial Hospital in 2009 and shot and killed her husband admitted Thursday to murder charges.
Rhonda K. Stewart, 56, entered a Kennedy V. Frazier plea to second-degree murder with a firearm Thursday in the shooting death of her husband, Sammy Stewart.
Under such a plea, defendants do not give a statement of guilt, but agree to a plea deal because they believe a jury might convict them of a crime with a longer sentence if the case goes to trial.
Stewart was previously convicted of first-degree murder, but in a 3-2 decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned that verdict. Justices said Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman erred in the initial trial by disallowing evidence that suggested Stewart suffered years of abuse under her husband.
Rhonda Stewart's defense lawyer, Harold Salsbery, has argued that the abuse caused a longstanding mental instability that eventually spurred Stewart to shoot her husband.
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said Thursday that both sides would have been taking a risk by going to trial.
A jury could have again found Stewart guilty of first-degree murder, a charge that carries a mandatory life sentence in West Virginia. But jurors could also have found her guilty of a much lesser charge, allowing for Stewart's freedom on time already served in prison, Plants said.
Kaufman ruled Thursday that Stewart could remain on home confinement at least until her sentencing on March 19. She has been out of prison since the Supreme Court reversal last year.
In June 2009, Rhonda Stewart and one of her daughters were visiting Sammy Stewart, who was in treatment for pancreatitis and alcohol withdrawal at CAMC Memorial.