Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oslow County, NC: Husband found guilty of wife's death

An Onslow County jury found a Southwest area man guilty late Friday of killing his wife two years ago, but he will have to wait until Monday to learn his prison sentence.

Howard Bernard Lee, 64, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the November 2010 death of 63-year-old Shirley Ann Lee, his wife of 43 years.

Lee is set to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday by N.C. Superior Court Judge Charles Henry, who could hand down a ruling of seven to 32 years, according to state law.

Lee, who appeared shaken by the verdict, told the court he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Lee received six Purple Hearts as a Vietnam-era Marine. Henry advised Lee that if he claimed PTSD at sentencing then he would have to admit what he did.

Four jurors were crying as the verdict was read. The jury, made up of 10 women and 2 men, deliberated for two hours after the week-long trial.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors laid out their case against Lee in closing arguments, reminding jurors of medical examiner testimony that injuries sustained by Lee’s wife were consistent with a bludgeoning, not a fall as Lee claimed. Dr. Anuradha Arcot, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, testified earlier this week that evidence showed Lee’s wife was beaten to death.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Mike Maultsby and ADA Kelly Neal also reminded jurors that Lee admitted to investigators to hitting his wife in 2008 and said he might have hit her the night she died, but didn’t remember.

Lee’s attorney, Jacksonville lawyer Ernie Wright, told jurors that detectives coerced his client into making incriminating statements during interviews in 2010.

In rebuttal testimony Friday morning, prosecutors played video of Lee being interviewed by Onslow County Sheriff’s Sgt. David South to highlight contradictions between Lee’s statements in 2010 and his courtroom testimony.

Lee said his wife refused to take prescribed medication and more than likely hit her head before going to sleep. Her body was in her bed when authorities were called to the couple’s Blue Creek Road home.

Crime scene investigators testified during the week-long trial to using luminescent chemical tests to find traces of blood in the living room despite the area having been cleaned by bleach.

Family members testified Thursday that Lee and his wife were a happy couple but admitted during cross-examination by prosecutors that there were incidents of violence, including the one in 2008 when Lee hit his wife and reportedly told his daughters that he had to teach their mother a lesson.

Both witnesses and the defendant cried when answering questions about the death of his wife.

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