Last Modified: Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:23 AM
The 31-year prison sentence of a Pitkin man convicted of manslaughter in the 2009 death of Kimberly Ann Stephens is not excessive, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.
Prosecutors sought a second-degree murder charge in the death of Stephens, whose body was found on Granberry Road, south of DeRidder, in August 2009. She had signs of blunt-force trauma and stab wounds to the neck.
A 10-2 jury returned a responsive verdict of manslaughter against Billie Joe Weldon, who is serving a 38-year prison sentence with seven years suspended.
Weldon argued that the sentence “is not supported by the record and is unconstitutionally excessive,” according to the nine-page 3rd Circuit opinion penned by Judge James Genovese.
Weldon, a first-time offender, asked for a sentence of 20 years or less, Genovese said.
A three-judge panel of Genovese, Billy Ezell and David Painter upheld the sentence.
In handing down the verdict in December, 36th Judicial District Court Judge C. Kerry Anderson gave several reasons for the sentence. Among those Genovese listed were the deliberate cruelty and violence of the crime, in which Stephens was beaten with a crescent wrench and her throat cut, and that the crime was committed in the presence of Weldon’s infant child, thus putting the child at risk.
According to court testimony from the prosecution and the defense, Weldon, who was married, and Stephens were in a relationship that traded sex for drugs.
“I do not believe that you turned down Granberry Road with the intent of committing murder,” Anderson said. “Nevertheless, that is what occurred in this situation, and so that mitigating factor is balanced by the fact that it was a voluntary act on your part to consume those drugs.”
Anderson said a 40-year sentence, the maximum allowed for manslaughter, would have been justified.