Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 18, 2013

Text mom indicted

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A woman who allegedly shot and killed another person after a heated exchange of text messages has been indicted by the Mercer County grand jury for first-degree murder.

Judith Helen Kowaleski, 43, of Bluefield was arrested March 28 after the death of Elizabeth Slagle, 42, of Bluefield. Slagle was shot during a confrontation at the intersection of Falls Mills and Nichols roads.

Investigators said at the time of the arrest that Kowaleski 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 in April during Kowaleski’s preliminary hearing that when he arrived on the scene, two women were kneeling by a third woman who was lying on her back. Kowaleski 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. 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.

Kowaleski’s defense attorney, Ryan Flanigan, argued at the preliminary hearing that Slagle was shot by accident when Kowaleski tried to evade a hand-held taser Slagle allegedly tried to use on her.

In late July, Kowaleski was placed under home confinement as a condition of her bond. The case was not presented to the grand jury’s July session because the shooting was still under investigation, said Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash.

The grand jury also indicted Latasha Marie Kanode, 23, of Princeton and Steven McDonald, 32, of Bluefield. Both were arrested July 15 in connection with the death of Sherry Matthews, 44, of Princeton.

Matthews was shot and killed at her apartment in the Lilly Grove area near Princeton.

A second person, Edward Lee Thomas, 41, of Princeton was shot in the chin during the incident, but he was later treated and released from Princeton Community Hospital.

Kanode and McDonald are both facing charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder, first-degree robbery, felon in possession of a gun and conspiracy.

During McDonald’s preliminary hearing Sept. 4 before Magistrate Sandra Dorsey, Detective R.M. Combs of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department testified that he was on duty July 15 when the murder was reported at Thornton Avenue in Lilly Grove.

 When investigators arrived, Matthews was found lying on her bed, Combs said. There were three gunshots to her upper body, and a medical examiner later determined a gunshot was the cause of death.

Thomas, who was also living at the apartment, was able to talk despite being shot in the chin. He identified Kanode and McDonald as the people who had shot him and Matthews, Combs said.

Sheriff Don Meadows later arrested McDonald at his workplace, and Kanode was traced back to her father’s Monroe County home. Approximately $11,000 that had been stolen was later recovered.

McDonald told investigators he had thrown the gun, a .40-caliber pistol, off a hill at Brickyard Road, but it was later found under his truck’s hood, Combs testified.

Robbery was the motive behind the attack, and McDonald was the “trigger man” who shot both Matthews and Thomas, Combs stated.

Both Kanode and McDonald are being held without bond at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.

— Contact Greg Jordan at