By Wendy Holdren
A 61-year-old man was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Friday to the second degree murder of a man he described as “one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Gerald Wayne Little, of Wyoming County, pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing Jerry Buckner, 57, of Princeton in March 2012.
He was initially charged on two separate indictments in October 2012. The first charged him with murder, first degree burglary and first degree robbery.
The second charged him with failure to register as a sex offender.
On Oct. 20, 2012, Little pleaded “not guilty” to all charges, but Friday before special Judge John S. Hrko, he admitted he stabbed Buckner 43 times.
Because he pleaded guilty to second degree murder, the state agreed to drop the other charges.
Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash was disqualified from the case because relatives of the victim work in his office, and an additional motion was made to change the venue due to familial kinship of a circuit clerk.
The case was moved to Raleigh County Circuit Court in March and Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller was assigned to the case.
She reviewed the evidence the state would have presented had the case gone to trial.
Keller said Buckner was found murdered in his Honaker Avenue residence after not showing up for work at the post office.
“The Princeton Police Department conducted one of the finest investigations I’ve ever seen,” she noted.
Buckner’s body was sent to the medical examiner’s office, where 43 stab wounds were found and no alcohol or drugs were found in his system.
Little’s girlfriend spoke to police and said he was out of money and had borrowed money from Buckner in the past. She said when he returned home, he had scratches on his face.
Little consented when police asked him for a DNA sample and for photos of his face, neck and hands.
Keller said his DNA was found under Buckner’s nails, as well as on a blood sample from his pants.
When the Princeton Police interviewed him again, he denied having any involvement.
Little addressed the court and essentially blamed his girlfriend for his money struggles.
“I was being taken advantage of... I was just a sugar daddy.”
He went on to say Buckner was “one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life” and he was “looking forward to being a really good friend of his.”
“I didn’t know which way to turn and I just lost it. I’ve prayed to God so many times over the past 21 months asking God to take my life.”
Little said he has attempted suicide multiple times in the past seven years.
“Even though they wouldn’t believe me, I know what it’s like to lose a family member. I am so very, very sorry,” Little said to more than 20 of Buckner’s family members who attended the sentencing.
Little said he has seven kids and 21 grandchildren: “I would like to get back in their lives before I die, but I don’t see that happening.”
Buckner’s sister, Melissa Pentasuglia, then addressed the court.
She said Buckner was a brother, a teacher, a confidant and a buddy. She described him as caring, generous and patient.
“He was a giver, not a taker. He was one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. He had worked a 14-hour shift before he was brutally murdered. Mr. Little was there to steal and kill and I believe if given the opportunity, he would do it again.”
Her hands shook as she read her prepared statement, but her voice never faltered.
“Although I’ve forgiven Mr. Little, I believe he is one of the most evil men to come before the court and he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Another sister, Brenda Davis, said she has been asking God to forgive her for the anger and bitterness Little has left in her heart.
“There is an empty seat in our houses that cannot be filled. There is no sentence great enough or harsh enough to punish him for the crimes he has committed.”
Judge Hrko moved directly into sentencing, and ordered that Little serve 35 years for the murder of Jerry Buckner.
Buckner’s death was not Little’s first murder charge.
He was also charged in April 2006 with first-degree murder in the September 2005 beating death of his brother, Daniel Lynn Little, 49, of Itmann.
Daniel Little’s body was found, brutally beaten, on Sept. 20, 2005, and Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department investigators believed the victim may have been dead up to two days when he was discovered.
Gerald Little, who lived in Beckley at the time, was later arrested.
While free on $20,000 bond in the murder case, he allegedly assaulted a former girlfriend.
He was arrested on charges of kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree sexual abuse after he allegedly lured his 48-year-old ex-girlfriend into his car under the guise of reconciling, choked her until she lost consciousness and made sexual contact with her while she was unconscious.
Ultimately, Little pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawful wounding and first-degree sexual abuse in connection with the Raleigh County sex crimes charges.
He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the murder trial involving his brother’s death and was sentenced to 10 years in custody. Unconfirmed reports say he was paroled in 2011.
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