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Boone man sentenced to prison in shooting death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Boone County man will spend up to 20 years in prison for shooting his friend's girlfriend, allegedly because the weapon accidentally went off during a struggle.

John Edward Hudson, 38, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison on charges of voluntary manslaughter with a firearm in the death of Michelle Gillespie, 38. Kanawha County Judge Tod Kaufman agreed to add another five years to the sentence because Hudson is a previously convicted felon.

In January 2012, Hudson was staying with Gillespie and her boyfriend, Mark Southern, in their home in Winifrede. One day, Gillespie became upset about a post that Southern wrote on Facebook, pulled out a handgun and threatened to kill him, according to Hudson.

Southern was not in the home at the time.

Hudson said he tried to disarm Gillespie, but accidentally shot her in the head.

"On the day that this happened, he was more worried about himself than his friend," Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Jennifer Meadows said during Tuesday's sentencing. "He may have remorse now that he's arrested and convicted, but on that day, he didn't have remorse."

Meadows said that after he shot Gillespie, Hudson stole 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 the house.

A Kanawha County grand jury originally indicted Hudson on murder charges. Prosecutors, however, agreed to offer a plea to voluntary manslaughter because they couldn't find evidence to disprove Hudson's account of what happened. The distance at which Gillespie was shot, the position of her body, the lack of a witness, and the lack of a concrete motive didn't conflict with what Hudson initially told investigators.

Gillespie's father, Donald Gillespie, broke down during portions of Thursday's sentencing proceedings, and pleaded with the judge to hand down the maximum possible sentence to Hudson.

"He is a scumbag," Gillespie said. "He has ruined a lot of lives."

His daughter, Donald Gillespie said, was a kindhearted person, and scoffed at claims that she was holding a gun the night that she died.

"This low-life shot my daughter," he said. "It wasn't an accident."

Hudson's lawyer, John Carr, pointed out that police never checked the gun for fingerprints, a move that would have provided some certainty as to whether Gillespie had the weapon in her hands.

Carr also said that no prison sentence would bring back Gillespie, and asked for the judge to consider issuing a lighter sentence.

Hudson will be eligible for parole after serving five years of his sentence. He could walk free in about 10 years with "good time" credit.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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