Monday, February 20, 2017

18-Year-Old Afraid For Her Life Sentenced to 28 to 30 Years After Shooting Husband, 1951

“Marie McLelland Pleads Guilty to Second Degree Murder, Gets 28-30 Years,” from the Feb. 1, 1951 issue of the Statesville Landmark

At 12:10 Wednesday in Iredell Superior Court, 18-year-old Mrs. Marie Bunton McLelland was sentenced from 28 to 30 years in the Women’s Division State Prison for the shotgun slaying here on November 7, 1950, of her husband, Wilford T. McLelland, 28-year-old textile worker. One hour before sentencing, Mrs. McLelland, through counsel, had tendered a plea of guilty to second degree murder, which plea the state accepted. The grand jury had returned a first degree indictment against her.

The slight, bespectacled brunette wept quietly as Judge Donald Phillips, in pronouncing sentence, remarked, “This is a bad killing. There could hardly be any worse.”

McLelland was killed by one shotgun blast in the head as he lay asleep in their home, 613 West Sharpe street, this city at noon, after returning about an hour earlier, witnesses said in a drunken condition.

In her testimony, Mrs. McLelland, who is the mother of a one-year-old daughter and had been married to McLelland for two years, said that he had, when drunk, frequently beat her and told her “I will kill you if you ever leave me or get me in trouble.” She told officers, whom she called just after the shooting, that he returned from his work at the Seminole Mills here early on the morning of the killing and then left to take a friend home. He returned late in the morning, after having been drinking, and went to bed. She got the double-barrel shotgun, which he had brought to the home some time earlier, loaded both barrels, then stood watching him for some 20 minutes before firing the shot which blasted away the top of his head.

The defendant, when asked by the court if she still loved her husband when she killed him, replied, “Yes.”

Throughout her testimony she used the phrase, “I was afraid of him.”

In announcing acceptance of the second degree plea, Solicitor Zeb A. Morris said that after careful consideration of all aspects of the case he felt that a first degree conviction could not be obtained and that “the best interests of the state, the county, and the public will be served through accepting this plea.”

Mrs. McLelland, dressed in a short grey jacket, light tan corduroy dress, and white bobby sox, sat quietly with her eyes on the floor, in the courtroom between her father and mother throughout the testimony of arresting officers and the coroner. Her only show of emotion was the nervous clasping and unclasping of her hands in her lap. She was represented by Burke and Burke of Taylorsville, and John G. Lewis of this city. The defense presented three character witnesses, the mother and father of the defendant, and the defendant herself. States witnesses were Capt. H.M. Reid of the Statesville Police Department and former Iredell Coroner James E. Meacham.

Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Phillips remarked that in view of the nature of the case and the principals involved, he considered the state justified in accepting a second-degree plea.

The Alton Crouch manslaughter case, arising out of the traffic death last April of Mr. W.T. Summers, went to a jury at 11 a.m. and deliberations were continuing early this afternoon.

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