Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 26, 2014

2 receive life sentence

Kanode, MacDonald face time for 2013 murder

PRINCETON — After two separate hearings in which families asked for justice and for leniency, a Mercer County man and woman were sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with mercy for the July 2013 murder of a Princeton woman.

Latasha Kanode, 23, and Steven Brandon MacDonald, 33, were both charged in connection with the shooting death of Sherry Matthews, 44, of Thornton Avenue, near Princeton, on July 15, 2013. The state alleged that the two went to the residence to rob the woman.

A second individual in the residence, Edward Lee Thomas, 41, of Princeton, was also shot, but survived.

Both Kanode and MacDonald, who made guilty pleas in February, were sentenced in separate hearings by Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope. Swope accepted both pleas Tuesday and proceeded with sentencing.

Kanode was sentenced to life in prison with mercy, meaning she would be eligible for parole in 15 years. Kanode also was sentenced to 20 years for first-degree robbery, three to 15 years for attempted murder, and one to five years for conspiracy. The sentences will run consecutively.

Swope said Kanode would have to serve a minimum of 29 years before being eligible for parole, and to discharge the entire sentence she would need to serve a minimum of 35 years.

MacDonald was later sentenced by Swope to life with mercy for first-degree murder, 10 years for robbery with a firearm enhancement, three to 15 years for attempted murder and one to three years for conspiracy. The sentences will run consecutively. MacDonald was the person who fired the handgun used in the incident.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash said MacDonald would be eligible for parole in 24 years. Ash emphasized that in both MacDonald’s and Kanode’s cases, parole for the first-degree murder sentence is not guaranteed.

Members of Matthews’s family were offered the opportunity to address the court during both hearings. Her sister, Michelle Phillips, 42, of Princeton, said at both hearings that she wanted justice.

“Well, you know, I don’t know what to say,” Phillips said as she cried. “I think somebody should get what they get for it. I think she should get justice.”

Kanode cried and trembled at times while members of her family spoke on her behalf. Her cousin, Kendra Wheeler, 29, said Kanode had been a drug addict “for a long time” and that her actions were influenced by drugs.

“ That’s not Latasha. She’s a good person. She has a heart. She made one bad decision in her life,” Wheeler said. “Please have mercy on her. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Jerry Rose, 70, a family friend, added, “I think the girl is actually a good person. I don’t believe anybody should be put away for life. She should be given another chance.”

Kanode’s attorneys, David Smith and Phillip Scantleberry, asked Swope to run the sentences concurrently.

Kanode did not speak on her own behalf, but exchanged words including “love you always” with her family as she was led from the courtroom.

Phillips later spoke during MacDonald’s hearing and again asked the court for justice.

“I just ask for justice to be served. She was somebody. She was my sister,” she said tearfully. “ I have to go to the grave to see my sister.”

MacDonald's mother, Elizabeth MacDonald, said her son had attended Mercer County Drug Court and had been doing well, even teaching some drug court classes, and described him as “a kind, caring person.”

“I wish I could change this,” Steven MacDonald told the court. “But I can’t. I’m so sorry about this.”

Swope said at both hearings that the murder was an example of the problems drugs bring to the Mercer County community.

During both hearings, Swope complemented the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department for conducting the investigation into Matthews’s murder.

After the hearings, Ash said there “was not much difference” between the two sentences. With a gun enhancement, MacDonald, who received 10 years for robbery, could do five years on that sentence. Kanode, who received 20 years, could also be eligible for parole on that sentence in five years.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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