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Pittsfield man guilty of murdering wife
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/18 13:28
A Pittsfield man who stabbed his wife 58 times has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Seymour Townsend, 37, was convicted Thursday by a Berkshire Superior Court jury after 4½ hours of deliberations over two days. Townsend repeatedly stabbed Michelle Padgett Townsend, 27, in his Pittsfield apartment in the early hours of March 3, 2006, authorities said.

In a victim impact statement from Padgett Townsend’s mother, Donna Rinaldi, read by District Attorney David Capeless, the victim was described as a giving, loving woman who loved her four daughters. Townsend was the father of the youngest.

"There’s not a second that goes by that I don’t long for her," Rinaldi said. "She was my daughter, and she didn’t deserve to die like this, and I don’t deserve to live through my life like this.

Padgett Townsend’s sister, Brenda LeClair, said she remains bitter.

"Every day, I ask myself, ’Why didn’t he just walk away?’" she said. "I can never forgive him for this."

Padgett Townsend’s body was discovered three days after the stabbing covered in a white sheet and lying face down in the living room.

Pittsfield police and city firefighters had broken into the apartment after a Department of Social Services caseworker contacted them, worried because Padgett Townsend had missed a scheduled visit with her children that morning.

The state had removed the children from Padgett Townsend’s care. The couple was separated.

Townsend was apprehended in New York City three weeks after the slaying.

Defense attorney John Kaufman did not dispute that Townsend had killed his wife, but he claimed Townsend had "snapped" during an argument and was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Townsend’s wife attacked him with a kitchen knife, and he killed her in the "heat of passion," Kaufman claimed in court. Voluntary manslaughter carries a 20-year sentence.

But the prosecution argued that the slaying was premeditated and done with extreme atrocity or cruelty. Padgett Townsend had likely been near death when her husband inflicted the last 11 stab wounds, Capeless said.


Man pleads guilty to 3 N.Y. murders
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/17 12:11

A man prosecutors suspect of preying on more than a dozen women as the "Bike Path Rapist" pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering three women since 1990, including two whose bodies were found on bike paths. Altemio Sanchez, 49, was arrested earlier this year after DNA evidence linked him to a series of rapes and killings in the Buffalo area.

Judge Christopher Burns asked Sanchez about each of the three victims. "I strangled her," he said three times, weeping and barely audible.

Sanchez's wife sobbed as he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in each death. He faces 75 years to life in prison at sentencing Aug. 2.

"It is unimaginable to us that someone we have truly loved and respected for so many years could be capable of such violent acts," his wife, Kathleen Sanchez, and her family said in a statement. "We are sincerely sorry and filled with grief for your tragic losses."

Sanchez admitted killing University at Buffalo student Linda Yalem, who was raped and strangled on a bike path near campus in 1990; Majane Mazur, who was found raped and strangled on a Buffalo street two years later; and Joan Diver, who was strangled along a bike path last fall.

"The case against him in each of the three homicides was overwhelming," Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said after the pleas.

Defense attorney Andrew LoTempio said Sanchez wanted to spare his family from a trial and decided to plead guilty after reviewing the DNA evidence against him.

Clark said investigators have tied Sanchez to 8 or 9 rapes and suspect him in a dozen more dating back to the late 1970s.



Court rejects appeal in slayings of six Wis. hunters
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/16 15:03

A Minnesota truck driver sentenced to life in prison for murdering six deer hunters in northern Wisconsin after a confrontation over trespassing was not a victim of a racially biased court system as he claimed, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. The 3rd District Court of Appeals rejected Chai Soua Vang's request for a new "minority counsel" to represent him. "Our independent review of the record discloses no improper racial issues with regard to sentencing or otherwise for appeal," the three-judge panel said.

The appeals court upheld Vang's convictions for six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, agreeing with his attorneys that there was no merit to an appeal.

The fatal shootings occurred in November 2004 after a group of deer hunters in Sawyer County confronted Vang, 38, of St. Paul, Minn., over trespassing in a tree stand.

Vang, a Hmong immigrant and experienced hunter, testified during his trial that he shot the six white hunters and wounded two more in self-defense, claiming one of them fired a shot in his direction after they shouted racial epithets and cursed at him.

The two survivors testified that Vang had begun walking away from the confrontation when he turned and opened fire.

Prosecutors convinced a jury that Vang reacted in an angry outburst, feeling disrespected by the hunters, and then tried to kill everyone so there would be no eyewitnesses.

Vang, who came to the United States from Laos more than 20 years ago, was sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus 165 years in prison. He is being in kept in an undisclosed prison outside of Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Corrections.



Casper woman pleads not guilty to murder charge
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/16 11:06

A Casper woman who allegedly told investigators that she killed her boyfriend "because his life was so bad" pleaded not guilty this morning (Tuesday morning) to a charge of first-degree murder. Dawn M. Rock could be sentenced to life in prison if she's convicted. The Casper Star-Tribune reported on its Web site that Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen said in court this morning that he will not pursue the death penalty.

According to court documents, the 34-year-old Rock told police she shot 36-year-old Kenneth Walkinshaw at their home in March after he complained about how bad his life was.

Police say the couple had argued earlier, and that Rock said Walkinshaw had tried to choke her.



Man pleads guilty to rape; gets life sentence
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/14 13:17

Due to the victim's age, a Defiance man convicted Monday of child sexual abuse was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Defiance County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Schmenk handed the mandatory sentence to Andrew Arps, 18, 700 Kiser Road, for rape, a first-degree felony. Arps, who pleaded guilty to the charge Monday morning, will be parole eligible in 10 years. State law required Schmenk to impose the sentence because the victim " a four-year-old girl " was less than 10 years of age.

Authorities said during Monday's hearing that Arps engaged in digital penetration at an apartment at 700 Kiser Road on Nov. 21. Because the sentence was mandatory, the court entertained only a few comments before Arps was sentenced. Arps said he was "sorry for everything. If I could take it back I would."
The victim's father, however, said Arps had "stolen my daughter's innocence. I hope for his sake he doesn't get parole. No amount of time he can spend in jail ... can make the hurt go away."

Arps' court-appointed attorney, Steve Sondergaard of Defiance, said his client understands his conduct and is remorseful. "I believe Mr. Arps understands how this not only impacts the victim, but himself and his family," said Sondergaard. "He's truly remorseful. He understands his wrongdoing."

Schmenk made no comment in pronouncing sentence while assistance county prosecuting attorney Morris Murray said the crime has made a "tremendous impact on the victim" and her parents.

Arps was arrested in November by Defiance police not long after the crime occurred. He was later indicted by a county grand jury in December for a single count of rape. The defendant has been incarcerated at CCNO on a $1 million bond.



Police killer found guilty of prostitute murder
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/05/11 14:01

A man already serving a life sentence for killing two police officers has been found guilty of the murder of a teenage prostitute in 1997. A Supreme Court jury has found 53-year-old Bandali Debs guilty of the shooting murder of Kristy Harty. The body of the 18-year-old prostitute was found on a bush track in Upper Beaconsfield, south-east of Melbourne, almost a decade ago. During the trial the court heard DNA from Debs was found on Ms Harty, and that Debs had access to guns with the same calibre bullets as the one that killed her.

Debs is already serving a life sentence without parole for the murders of policemen Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller in Moorabbin in 1998, a year after he murdered the teenager. His plea hearing will be held at a later date.



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