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Prison term levied
In shooting death of wife
Thursday, August 15, 2013
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
David “Leon” Mitchell was sentenced Wednesday to serve a total of 15 years in prison for the Jan. 29 shooting death of his wife of 24 years.
Mitchell, now 64, was sentenced to a total of 43 years on a second-degree murder charge and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Mitchell had pleaded guilty to both charges in June.
Henry County Circuit Court Judge David Williams ordered him to serve 12 years of the maximum 40-year sentence on the second-degree murder conviction, with the balance of the 40 years suspended on the condition of indefinite probation. Three years of the sentence is the mandatory minimum sentence on the firearm charge.
Mitchell testified Wednesday that after mixing beer, liquor and hydrocodone pain pills for his knees, the last thing he recalled before the shooting was that he was “asleep, passed out or whatever in my recliner in the living room” when he heard his wife, Linda Sue Mitchell, call for him.
“I jumped up ... got my gun ... and shot her. I don’t know why. It’s driving me crazy,” Mitchell said.
Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester said at Mitchell’s June hearing that around 11:14 p.m. on Jan. 29, a man who identified himself as Leon Mitchell told a dispatcher “I shot my wife,” and then made “numerous” other statements that also implicated him.
Authorities arriving at the scene found Linda Sue Mitchell on the bedroom floor to the right of a bed in the Mitchells’ home on Bittersweet Drive with obvious trauma to her head, Nester said in June.
She had been shot once in the arm and once in the back of the head, according to testimony Wednesday from Teresa Dola, the daughter of Linda Sue Mitchell. Leon Mitchell was her stepfather and has been a “part of my life for 30 years,” Dola said.
Her mother was brain-dead in the hospital, Dola said.
Dola testified that she still struggles to overcome the shock, and must rely on pictures taken of her mother while she was hospitalized after the shooting.
“I have to go back and look at those to remind myself it’s real,” Dola said.
She directed much of her emotional testimony to her stepfather.
“Leon, I had Momma 38 years. ... You can’t turn love on and off like a switch,” Dola said. “I love you, Leon, but I hate what you did. Momma was my best friend.”
After listening to the eight-minute 911 recording made when the incident was reported, Dola told Mitchell that “you obviously were very drunk.”
“But that was no excuse for you to kill Momma,” she quickly added.
Linda Sue Mitchell was a “mother, grandmother, sister and a friend. I don’t want her to be remembered as the woman who was shot by her husband,” Dola said. “I pray that God’s will be done here today.”
“I do, too,” Leon Mitchell said from his seat at a table with defense attorney Pat Sharpe, who asked Dola if she had visited Mitchell since he had been in jail.
Dola said she had, and that she knew Mitchell would not have shot her mother if it were not for alcohol.
“He took care of my Momma the best way he knew how,” she said.
According to testimony, Mitchell retired about a year and a half ago from a job as a pipe welder. Linda Sue Mitchell was disabled. While working, he spent a lot of time out of town and on various jobs, he said.
Mitchell testified that he was taking hydrocodone, a pain killer for knee problems. In October, Mitchell had been baptized and joined a church, according to testimony. He began drinking again about three or four weeks before the shooting incident. He said he cannot explain why he shot his wife or even fully recall it.
“I wish I could have stopped it,” Mitchell said. “I hate hurting Teresa and everybody that I’ve hurt, and I don’t know how they could care about me, cause I don’t.”
Mitchell said he also did not understand how or why he could hurt somebody such as his wife. “She didn’t have a chance,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of tragic cases ... but I think this is at the top of the list,” Sharpe told Judge Williams. Family members on both sides “are very good people all around” and have talked together and loved one another through the tragedy.
Also, Sharpe said all of the family members he had talked to said Mitchell was a humble, honest and hard-working man.
Sharpe said he tries to give his clients hope, “but there’s not a lot of hope in this case. Practically any sentence could be a life sentence.”