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Wise gets life for husband's murder

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Attorney says appeal likely, Wise to be eligible for parole in 20 years

By Calen McKinney

It took about a minute for her to hear the words that will keep her behind bars, possibly until her death.

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“I’m hereby sentencing you to a term of imprisonment for the rest of your life,” said Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly.

The courtroom was quiet.

Kathleen Wise, 61, formerly of 4203 Bengal Road in Campbellsville, was sentenced to serve life in prison on Friday after a jury found her guilty last month. Jurors said she killed her husband with a morphine overdose.

Wise’s trial took about seven hours and jurors took 20 minutes to find her guilty of murdering Joseph Kenneth Wise. It took jurors another 10 minutes to recommend that Wise receive a life sentence for her crime.

And on Friday, Wise was in court to see if Kelly would follow the jury’s recommendation. Judges don’t have to follow a jury’s recommended sentence, though they often do.

After finding her guilty, jurors had the choice of recommending that Wise serve anywhere from 20 to 50 years in prison or life.

Dressed in white inmate clothing on Friday, Wise stood before Kelly with her attorney, William Butler of Louisville.

Before announcing his sentencing, Kelly asked Butler and Wise if they would like to make a statement. They replied that they don’t. Wise showed no reaction to Kelly’s sentence. Afterward, Kelly asked if Wise had any questions about the sentence.

“No sir,” she whispered and she was escorted out of the courtroom, back to her cell at the Taylor County Detention Center.

Though she received a sentence of life in prison, Wise will be eligible to appear before a parole board after serving 20 years of her sentence. She will be 81.

Wise was indicted in July 2011 by a Taylor County grand jury and charged with the first-degree murder of her husband. She pleaded not guilty to the crime. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty.

According to witness testimony, Wise admitted to law enforcement officers that she put liquid morphine into her husband’s drinking water on June 7, 2011. He died the following day. Butler said throughout the case that Wise has denied killing her husband.

Wise is a former registered nurse at Medco Nursing Home, now Campbellsville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The criminal charge against Wise stemmed from a toxicology investigation into her husband’s death. Mr. Wise died June 8, 2011, from a supposed heart attack. Routine toxicology tests, however, revealed he consumed a fatal dose of morphine. His cause of death was changed to that and ruled a homicide.

Court records state that a toxicology report found 5,738 ng/ml of morphine in Mr. Wise’s blood and 1,359 ng/ml in his urine. Normal therapeutic ranges, according to court records, are from 10 to 80 ng/ml.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Cocanougher, one of two prosecutors in the case, said after Wise’s trial that he was pleased with the verdict.

“An intentional murder verdict is a hard verdict to get because it’s such a tough penalty,” he said last month.

And Cocanougher said he agreed with the recommended life sentence.

“Since his life was taken, it’s certainly fair that she be sentenced to life in prison,” he said.

On Friday, Cocanougher said he agrees with Kelly’s decision to follow the jury’s recommended sentence.

Butler said last month that he was shocked to hear Wise had been found guilty.

“The jury certainly didn’t see the facts the way the defense saw the facts. I guess the verdict speaks for itself.”

Butler said Wise loved her husband and simply wanted some peace from him screaming and yelling at her.

Butler, who did not present any witnesses during Wise’s trial, said he will very likely file an appeal in the case. 

Butler did not return a phone call on Friday to comment on Wise’s sentencing. As of Friday, an appeal had not yet been filed in Wise’s case. Cocanougher said he anticipates an appeal to be filed in every case where a prison sentence of 20 years or more is rendered.

For more about Wise’s trial, search www.cknj.com.