Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 17, 2014

Woman charged with murder following texting squabble gets 7 years

PRINCETON —  A Mercer County woman, who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after a heated exchange of text messages led to a fatal shooting, was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison with credit for time served.

Judith Helen Kowaleski-Slagle, 43, of Bluefield, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter. She was originally charged with first-degree murder. Kowaleski-Slagle was arrested March 28, 2013 after the death of Elizabeth Slagle, 42, of Bluefield. Slagle was shot once in the chest.

Circuit Court Judge William Sadler sentenced Kowaleski-Slagle Monday to seven years and six months in prison with 355 days credit for time already served at the Southern Regional Jail and on home confinement. Kowaleski-Slagle has until Friday at 9 a.m. to report to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. Kowaleski-Slagle requested time before reporting to prison to attend the funeral of her father, who recently passed away.

During an earlier interview, Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler described how the incident started when the children of the two women got into a “minor fight” aboard a school bus. The two mothers began an exchange of text messages that became increasingly heated during the day. This argument continued until the women and Kowaleski-Slagle’s aunt, Barbara Harrington, met at the intersection of Falls Mills and Nichols Roads near Brushfork, Sitler said.

A witness at the scene stated that Slagle said she was going to her car to get a gun, Sitler said. She later approached Kowaleski-Slagle with a taser and tried to touch her with it. Kowaleski-Slagle fired a .38 caliber revolver, hitting Slagle in the chest.

A search warrant was later obtained and the revolver was found at Kowaleski-Slagle’s home; the weapon, designed to hold five rounds, had one discharged bullet.

Elizabeth Slagle was the former sister-in-law of George Slagle, who was Kowaleski-Slagle’s boyfriend when the shooting occurred. They have married since that time.

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