The man who allegedly gunned down his estranged daughter-in-law is expected to plead guilty, his attorney said this week.
Larry Mitchell, 54, of Shinnston was indicted in May for first degree murder in the death and if his plea is entered he could spend the rest of his life in prison. A plea hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7th in Monongalia County. His attorney, Tom Dyer, said Mitchell will enter a guilty plea.
However, Dyer said Mitchell could still change his mind and then would stand trial on Dec. 11th.
If he pleads guilty, Mitchell is expected to take the stand during a sentencing hearing.
“It is anticipated Mr. Mitchell will testify on his own behalf regarding the circumstances that led up to the him killing the mother of granddaughter,” Dyer explained.
Police say Mitchell was waiting on Stafford to arrive at Wal-Mart where he was scheduled to meet Mitchell’s son to pick up their 2-year-old daughter for a weekend visit. Once Stafford arrived, Mitchell is said to have climbed out of his truck, walked over to Stafford’s car and opened fire. Mitchell was detained by witnesses until police arrived. Stafford was pronounced dead at the scene.
Stafford had been trying to obtain custody of her daughter and a Harrison County judge was expected to issue a final ruling in the case but Stafford was killed just days before the scheduled hearing.
Dyer says there were 9-1-1 calls, video tape of the event from and witnesses on behalf of the victim’s family were also anticipated to testify at the trial.
In West Virginia, first degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. However, it will be up to Judge Phillip Gaujot to decide whether or not Mitchell receives mercy. He could be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Both sides will present evidence during a sentencing hearing.