The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 2, 2013

Suttle sentenced to 35 years in prison

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— A 31-year-old Raleigh County man will spend 35 years in prison for the fatal shootings of 16-year-old James Bell and 18-year-old Landon Williams.

Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick ordered Tuesday that Jessie Lee Suttle serve two concurrent terms of 35 years for each murder.  

Suttle entered a Kennedy plea, meaning that he does not admit guilt, but believes a plea agreement is in his best interest instead of going to trial, where he could potentially receive a life sentence.

On Nov. 22, 2011, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department responded to a shooting on Mill Creek Road at Suttle’s residence, where he was throwing a birthday party for his brother.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller reviewed the evidence the state would present if the case had gone to trial.

She said although witnesses were under the influence of alcohol or other substances, it was determined that an argument broke out between Suttle and Williams. Allegedly, Williams struck Suttle’s brother, Matthew, then Suttle brought out a firearm. Suttle said he believed that Williams had a pipe or a wrench and he believed that Bell was going to attack him.

Williams was shot once in the neck and once in the chest with a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle and Bell was shot once in the abdomen.

Keller said the evidence would not support a self-defense argument, but there is also the credibility of the witnesses to consider.

Defense attorney Douglas Buffington said, “This is a plea bargain in the greatest sense of the word. We would have liked to have a lesser sentence and I’m sure Mrs. Keller would have liked a greater sentence.”

It was noted that two psychiatric evaluations were performed on Suttle, which reported paranoid schizophrenia and alcoholism, but the doctor determined Suttle was competent to proceed to trial or enter a plea.

When Kirkpatrick asked Suttle if he wanted to say anything, he replied, “No.”

Williams’ older sister, Priscilla Beth Pennington, spoke on behalf of her family.

“He was murdered like an animal,” Pennington said through angry tears.

“He wanted to be a welder. All his dreams and ambitions were taken away by a happy trigger finger.”

Pennington also said that Williams has a 2-year-old son who won’t get to know his father.

She said this incident was caused by jealousy over a woman, the mother of Williams’ child.

One of Bell’s older sisters came to speak, also.

“It’s never going to be the same,” Dusty Hicks said.

She asked Suttle to look at her, but he remained facing the judge, with his head held low.

“He lived two and a half hours after you shot him. I hope you can live the rest of your life knowing you killed two babies.”

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com