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Man Pleads Guilty In Manslaughter Case

Practice Areas

February 28, 2012

By Lauren Hallow

The State Journal

February 28, 2012

Joe Gregory Wilson pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Bette Winn as part of a plea deal reached this morning.

David Nutgrass, a special prosecutor from Shelby County, recommended Wilson be sentenced to five years with 60 days to serve with the possibility of shock probation.

Wilson will be sentenced April 13 by Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate.

Monday, during the first day of the trial, Nutgrass said Wilson was involved in a bar fight the night he allegedly beat Bette Winn and left her with fatal injuries.

The defense attorney said Winn's autopsy report disclosed injuries that had not been reported.

The two revealed the new information in the opening day of Wilson's trial in Franklin Circuit Court.

Wilson was accused of beating Winn in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2009. Winn died the next day from head injuries, caused from being "assaulted by other(s)," the medical examiner ruled in the February 2010 autopsy report.

Wilson was arrested Oct. 17 on a charge of domestic violence in the fourth degree and was charged with manslaughter that following July.

In opening arguments after jury selection, Nutgrass outlined the timeline in the case. He said he based it on accounts from about 20 witnesses who he had planned to call to the stand.

Nutgrass said Winn, Wilson, Winn's niece and Amy Holland who were all living at Wilson's home at 4232 Georgetown, and a friend went to Rose's Pub off East Main Street Oct. 16, 2009. Nutgrass said Winn left early because she wasn't feeling well, while the rest went to Parley's Tavern on Versailles Road.

Based on witness accounts, Nutgrass said Wilson's behavior "began to become somewhat unacceptable."

Wilson was asked to leave the bar around midnight, and it was then he got into an altercation with a man outside the bar, Nutgrass said. Wilson "punched (the man) in the nose," and the man responded by hitting Wilson until he was on the ground, Nutgrass said.

Wilson tried to walk home and was picked up along Versailles Road near the East-West Connector around 1:15 a.m. by the owner of Rose's Pub, who recognized Wilson and dropped him off at his home, Nutgrass said.

Holland came home later to find Winn injured, and records show she called police at 3:47 a.m. to report a domestic disturbance.

It was in that timeframe — between when Wilson got home and Holland returned — that Wilson beat Winn and caused the injuries responsible for her death, Nutgrass said.

"We're going to be able to show you that from the time Amy Holland got home ... until the time that Detective Michael Davidson (of Frankfort Police) took photos of Ms. Winn laying on a table (dead) in the emergency room (on Oct. 18, 2009) that her injuries were consistent the whole time," Nutgrass said.

Wilson's attorney, David Guarnieri, of Lexington, told a different story in his opening statement.

"At the time of the autopsy ... there were all kinds of other injuries," Guarnieri told the jury.

"... There's going to be an absence of evidence, we believe, that Mr. Wilson was responsible for any of Ms. Winn's injuries."

One of the sheriff's deputies who responded to the domestic dispute testified he found Winn that night with a black eye, bruises and abrasions on her face.

Guarnieri said the autopsy report mentioned those conditions, but also injuries to the chin, ears and bruises to the rest of her body — injuries not in the deputy's report on the domestic dispute.

Guarnieri said Winn suffered from "alcohol and intravenous drug abuse." He said Winn's injuries were "consistent with somebody who's had a lot of bumps and bruises, someone who particularly has fallen down ... if you were drunk, or if you, for whatever reason, had bad balance."

In February 2010, medical examiner Dr. Mary E. Goolsby, who was scheduled to testify before the plea deal was announced, ruled Winn's death a homicide. In the autopsy report, she said Winn died "as a result of blunt impacts to the head, with hepatic cirrhosis (a liver disease) as a significant contributing factor."

Also testifying Monday were brothers Steve and Robert Hanly. Both men said they saw Winn that Saturday with the same injuries listed in the domestic dispute report.

Robert Hanly testified that Winn came to his home around 8 a.m. Oct. 17 to "clean up" and shower and then left around noon.

Steve Hanly testified that around 6 p.m., Winn arrived at his home at 719 Kentucky Ave. for dinner. Winn then went out and returned around 1 a.m. to spend the night, he said.

Hanly testified that Winn had a seizure in her sleep but she "laughed it off." He went to Wal-Mart sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday, he said, and when he left, Winn was snoring.

About 10 a.m., Hanly said he went to go wake Winn and found her in his bed unresponsive, stiff and turning blue.

Kayleigh Zyskowski contributed to this report.

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