Monday, August 23, 2010

Iraq vet who killed wife gets 14 1/3 years in prison

A wife-killing Iraq veteran was sentenced to 14 1/3 years for the February 18 strangulation murder of mother-of-one Winter Plummer.  Sheldon Plummer, 28 was sentenced Friday, August 20 in accordance with a plea agreement which capped his sentenced at 14 years 4 months. According to the July 21 plea agreement, Sheldon strangled his wife to death in their Lacey, WA apartment. The supposed reason for the murder was in self-defense after the victim attacked him with a knife.

Thurston County sheriff’s detectives began investigating Winter Plummer’s disappearance April 18, after one of Sheldon Plummer’s friends, also an Army soldier, called the sheriff’s office to say Sheldon Plummer had called him and “wanted advice on how to dispose of a body,” court papers state.

When detectives spoke to Sheldon Plummer, he said that about a month earlier, his wife had packed three suitcases and left after an argument.But Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy has said that Plummer’s timeline of when his wife left was inconsistent.

Detectives later found that Plummer had pawned his wife’s jewelry. Detectives also thought it was suspicious that Winter Plummer’s car still was parked at the apartment complex at The Villages at Nisqually Ridge Apartments. And they found it odd that she would abandon her daughter.

A prosecutor later said Plummer had disposed of some of his wife’s belongings to make it appear as though she had left. Sheldon Plummer even sent text messages from her cell phone to her family members in Arizona in an effort to make them think she was alive.

After detectives initially interviewed Sheldon Plummer, he removed his wife’s body from a storage unit and placed it in his garage, court papers state. Soon thereafter, he admitted to killing his wife. He told detectives he acted in self-defense after she attacked him with a knife during an argument, court papers state. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jodilyn Erikson-Muldrew said in court Friday that the medical evidence contradicted that claim.

The 14 year, 4 month sentence is in the middle of the standard sentencing range for 2nd degree murder without any priors in Washington State. In Florida, 2nd degree murder can carry up to a life without parole sentence. Certain female teachers have been sentenced to more prison time for raping their students, even in Washington.

During an emotional hearing before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy, Winter Plummer’s family members, including her father, Carlos Goseyun, spoke of the loss of their loved one, who grew up on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona and joined the Army to better her life.

Winter Plummer’s grandmother, Andrea Goseyun, broke into tears in court, describing how she taught Winter the Apache language and traditions. She spoke about how Winter was a great athlete, excelling at volleyball, basketball and softball. She also said her granddaughter was an outstanding soldier. “I loved her as much as my own daughter, and today I miss her,” Andrea Goseyun said. “I know that I will never be able to speak to her again.”

Sheldon's attorney, James Dixon, tried to explain his client's murder of Winter Plummer by invoking post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. According to Dixon, his client had done three tours of Iraq, saw many friends become casualties and suffered a concussion in his 1st Iraq tour.  Dixon hired Dr. April Gerlock to write a report on his client. 
Dixon noted that Gerlock’s report says people who suffer from PTSD can experience a “heightened sense of arousal to an actual or perceived threat,” and that they “may respond with aggression in response to that threat.”

In a phone interview Friday, Gerlock cautioned that Plummer’s case is complex. She added that she thinks PTSD contributed to Plummer’s actions. Not all soldiers coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, and most who do never commit violent crimes, Gerlock said. It’s difficult for soldiers to shift from that “hyperawareness of ongoing danger” during combat tours to day-to-day civilian life, she said.

Gerlock also said that soldiers she sees every day minimize their PTSD to continue on with their lives, including careers and families. "We’re doing a lot for the recently deployed, but they have a lot on their plates. It’s tough. It’s so hard on these folks. They’re young, they want to get a family going and they just keep getting deployed.”

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