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Sissonville man pleads guilty to manslaughter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A week before his murder trial was set to begin, a Sissonville man pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Dale Thomas Newhouse, 55, had faced a murder charge in the September 2012 slaying of James "Jamie" Bryan Shaffer, 41, of Sissonville Drive.

"I'm ready to get on with my life," Newhouse told Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey. He faces 3 to 15 years in prison when Bailey sentences him on the manslaughter charge on Sept. 19.

According to Kanawha County sheriff's deputies, Shaffer called 911 at about 1 a.m. Sept. 27 to report that Newhouse had shot him. Shaffer told an emergency dispatcher that Newhouse was standing over him with a 9 mm handgun.

Newhouse was standing outside waiting for deputies when they arrived on the scene, while Shaffer was inside with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, deputies said. Shaffer was taken to CAMC General Hospital and later died.

Assistant Kanawha County prosecutor Michele Drummond told the judge much of the case relied on the testimony of Shaffer's girlfriend, Christina Burgess, who was at the home during the shooting.

Burgess told police that she and Shaffer had been staying with Newhouse, who she said drank almost every day until he passed out.

Burgess told police she and Shaffer had left the home the day of the shooting because they were arguing. When they returned, Burgess said the door to Newhouse's house was locked, but he let the couple in, Drummond said.

Newhouse and Shaffer began arguing, the prosecutor said. At some point, Shaffer raised his hands and Newhouse went and got a gun.

"Burgess said her belief is that Newhouse only intended to frighten the victim, not kill him," Drummond said.

Newhouse had previously told his neighbor, however, that the couple had broken into his home and that he was protecting himself, Drummond said.

"There are obviously elements we would dispute" if the case had gone to trial, said Bill Forbes, who represents Newhouse, referring to Drummond's statements. Newhouse, though, said he agreed with the facts Drummond stated about the case.

Newhouse was set to begin trial on Monday. His attorney had planned to ask the judge not to allow the 911 call be presented to jurors, according to court documents, as it brought up another shooting his client was involved in. Burgess told the 911 dispatcher, according to a transcript of the call, that Newhouse had shot someone before.

Newhouse was previously arrested and charged with malicious wounding in the shooting of a woman in December 2008, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

That charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence, according to court records.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723


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