Husband convicted in wife’s death

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

James E. Pendleton was convicted Wednesday of shooting and killing his wife in the presence of family members in December 2010, said District Attorney Dee Bates.

     Judge David Strong sentenced Pendleton to life in prison.

     The jury returned a guilty verdict on one count of murder after about 30 minutes of deliberation, according to Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams, lead prosecutor in the case. Pendleton faced no other charges.

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     Pendleton had pleaded not guilty, claiming a heat of passion defense.

     Pendleton had previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault in November of 2010. James and Gail Pendleton had been together about 10 years, Bates said.

     On Dec. 4, 2010, James Pendleton, 41 at the time, shot his wife Gail, then 29, following a domestic dispute, Bates said.

     Gail Pendleton’s half-sister and brother witnessed the shooting and her mother was present nearby, Bates said. All three testified during the trial, which lasted a day.

     According to the testimony, Gail Pendleton, from Brookhaven, was at her and her husband’s home with her family members. Gail Pendleton, who would have graduated from Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s cosmetology program about two weeks later, was beginning to cut her brother’s hair when her husband returned home.

     A dispute then began.

     James Pendleton accused his wife of having extra-marital affairs, according to his own testimony and that of family members. At one point during the argument, James Pendleton grabbed his wife’s cellphone and began questioning her about numbers in its address book, Bates said.

     At that point, witnesses testified Gail Pendleton went outside and James Pendleton went to his vehicle and retrieved a .40 caliber pistol. A verbal altercation continued, concluding with James Pendleton following his wife back inside the house and into their bedroom where he ultimately shot his wife three times in the head.

     She was pronounced dead by Coroner Clay McMorris around 3:30 p.m.

     James Pendleton was arrested that day and admitted to shooting his wife during questioning, Bates said.

     Pendleton’s defense argued he acted in the heat of passion, which both Bates and Adams dismissed. Pendleton’s defense attorney, Ivan Burghard, was not available for comment Thursday morning.

     “For a heat of passion defense you have to have some specific event that triggers a rage,” said Adams, noting such an event was lacking in this case.

     Bates concluded that such an event could not have happened, according to Pendleton’s own testimony.

     “It has to be in the moment, but he testified that she admitted to an extra-marital affair at minimum 10 days before,” Bates said, noting there is now no way to verify whether that is true. “She’s not here to testify on her behalf because of what (James Pendleton) did.”

     Adams also noted the evidence indicated a history of domestic violence by James Pendleton.

     “The family said it was very common to see bruises on her,” Adams said.

     Adams said he is glad for a conclusion to the case that provides Gail Pendleton’s family with some closure.

     “I was extremely happy with the jury verdict,” Adams said. “All the evidence was there and the jury was able to see it.”