Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 14, 2014

Text mom pleads guilty to lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter

PRINCETON — A Mercer County woman who was charged with first-degree murder after an angry exchange of text messages led to a fatal shooting in March 2013 pleaded guilty today in Mercer County Circuit Court to voluntary manslaughter.

Judith Helen Kowaleski-Slagle, 43, of Bluefield, appeared Tuesday morning for a plea hearing before Circuit Court Judge William Sadler. She had been scheduled to go on trial today for the March 28, 2013, shooting death of Elizabeth Slagle, 42, of Bluefield.

Sadler accepted Kowaleski-Slagle’s plea. She faces a term of three to 15 years when she is sentenced on March 10.

Since the time of the shooting, Kowaleski-Slagle married the brother-in-law of the victim, said Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler. The couple were dating at the time of the shooting.

Investigators said at the time of the arrest that Kowaleski-Slagle and Slagle had exchanged heated telephone calls and text messages for hours after an altercation between their children aboard a school bus. Trooper J.C. Teubert of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment said during an earlier preliminary hearing for Kowaleski-Slagle that when he arrived on the scene two women were kneeling by a third woman who was lying on her back. Kowaleski-Slagle  was attempting to give the fallen woman CPR and use her shirt to stop the bleeding.

Slagle had been shot once in the chest with a .38-caliber handgun. A pink hand-held taser was found next to Slagle; the model was not one designed to shoot projectiles, Teubert said in the earlier interview. A search warrant was obtained and a .38-caliber gun was found in Kowaleski’s home; the gun, designed to hold five rounds, had one discharged bullet.

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