A former beauty pageant winner and local hairdresser's murderer was brought to justice when he pled guilty to stabbing her 50 times in their Brownsburg, IN house. Angela Warnock, 38, and former Miss Kauai 1990, was planning to divorce her husband, Joseph Warnock, 41 and a former tanning bed salesman, and take their two daughters, now ages 12 and 8, back to Kauai due to drug and alcohol abuse.
At a hearing June 17 where Angela received a protective order against her husband, barring him from the family home, she described him as addicted to drugs and alcohol, while Joe stated that he would never hurt his wife. However, according to police, he had already bought the knife he would use to stab Angie more than 50 times.
The night of June 21, he was at an Eagle Creek Reservoir restaurant until 11:30 p.m., police said. He drove the few miles to a church parking lot about a quarter-mile from the family home, where he parked and crossed a farm field in the dark and broke in the patio door.
Police said he found Angela and the girls asleep. Reports from the coroner and evidence experts said Angela was stabbed 28 times and cut 23 times.
The girls ran, as their mother had taught them. They hid in a closet and called 911.
Hendricks Superior Court Judge Robert Freese accepted a plea agreement which states that Warnock will receive 55 years for 1st degree murder, in the midrange of the 45 to 65 years for 1st degree murder. Formal sentencing is set for October 9. A charge of home invasion was dropped.
County Prosecutor Patricia Baldwin defended the plea agreement, stating that the children would be retraumatized if they were forced to relive their mother's murder, and that the agreement was made with the consultation of the victim's family. The sentence, according to Baldwin, "sends a message about the damage that drugs and alcohol and domestic violence can do to destroy a family."
Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council Executive Director Stephan Johnson stated that 55 years is close to the standard murder sentence and that while there are 16 aggravating factors in murder cases, domestic violence or killings in front of children are not among those factors.
"Judges can have some discretion . . . depending on the circumstances," Johnson said. "But committing a murder in front of children is not one of approximately 16 aggravating circumstances that we have now."
Defense attorney Robert Hammerle agreed, saying the actions of the 41-year-old Warnock -- a former tanning-bed salesman who had no criminal record -- stemmed from his abuse of "alcohol and drugs during the days leading up to these events."
"This is one of those instances when he (Warnock) became a person he really isn't, because of (drug abuse) and lack of sleep.
"It was a momentary collision of emotions, which later are horrifying. But that is not a defense," Hammerle said. "The hope is that by admitting what happened, everyone in this family can move to some healing, some sense of balance, in the future."
He acknowledged that under Indiana's good-behavior provisions, Warnock could be released from prison in 20 years.
Bills have been introduced in the Indiana General Assembly making DV a statutory aggravating factor in a murder case, but none has passed yet.
(Update 10-9-09) The promised sentence, 55 years in prison, was handed down to Joseph Warnock in a Hendricks County courtroom today. Joe waived any right of appeal due to his plea agreement. Even so, Angela's stepfather and mother were present to give victim impact statements.
Gordon McGrath's statement is below:
I don't believe it [the 55 year sentence] is long enough. Anybody that can think about murdering their wife in front of their children and be able to get out in anyway, it's just not right...They're [the victims' daughters, ages 9 and 12] very scared. They won't go to bed at night by themselves. They won't go into a room by themselves. I can understand why, when this horrendous tragedy happened right in front of them. It just scarred their life forever.
Warnock himself spoke afterwards.
"Words cannot express the heartache I feel every day, the grieving and loss I feel...I am unbelievably sorry. I am devastated. I miss you. You were a great mom. I struggle each day to make it through the day. I don't expect forgiveness. I can't forgive myself. I hope and pray that one day they will be able to call me 'Dad' again."
Marci Theobald stated that Angela Warnock "lived for her girls and died for her girls. You are their father, and you were supposed to be their protector, not their destroyer. This tragedy was felt throughout the community and the state."
Presiding Judge Hendricks Superior Court Judge Robert W. Freese stated that Angie's family and friends should channel their anger at her murder into a desire to protect her daughters.