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Donahue receives 10-year sentence on manslaughter charge

By Sue Sterling sue.sterling@dsjnow.com 

WARRENSBURG — Jema Donahue received a 10-year prison sentence Monday, Jan. 28, on charges related to the shooting death of her husband, Javon Donahue, on April 4, 2017.

In November, a jury in 17th Circuit Court found Jema Donahue guilty of voluntary manslaughter, unlawful use of a weapon, felony murder, tampering with evidence and abandonment of a corpse, rejecting her self-defense argument.

During sentencing, the state agreed that no sentence could be levied on the second-degree murder charge because the jury had found Jema Donahue guilty on the manslaughter charge.

Prosecutor Rob Russell said Jema Donahue “cannot be punished twice for the same homicide.”

Circuit Judge Bill Collins sentenced Jema Donahue to 10-year sentences on the manslaughter and weapons charges, five years for armed criminal action, and four years on the tampering and abandonment charges, with all sentences to run concurrent.

According to testimony during the November trial, Jema Donahue shot her husband four times — in the back, the back of his head, in the mouth and under the chin –— in her bedroom at the home she shared with her parents in rural Knob Noster. She then enlisted the help of her mother and a friend to bury the body and hide other evidence in the case.

Russell asked Collins to impose 15-year concurrent sentences on the manslaughter and weapons charges, a 20-year consecutive sentence for armed criminal action and four-year consecutive sentences on the tampering and abandonment charges.

But defense attorney John Picerno asked for the minimum sentence, including probation, citing testimony during the trial that Jema Donahue was a battered woman and suffered from battered spouse syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from being raped at 13 years old, and that she had no prior criminal record “of any consequence.”

He said a number of witnesses had testified about the abuse she suffered at Javon Donahue’s hands.

During Picerno’s recitation of the trial evidence, a relative of Javon Donahue had to be removed from the courtroom after an outbreak protesting Picerno’s indictment of Javon, who he said, “played a role in his own death” by unlawfully sneaking into the house with “a massive amount of methamphetamine in his system.”

Picerno said a sentencing assessment report placed Jema Donahue’s risk assessment at 2, which he said was “in a good range.”

Stating he has handled dozens of homicide cases, Picerno said Jema Donahue’s case is the first time he has asked for the minimum sentence on every count.

Russell countered the argument stating Jema Donahue’s “contradictory statements and half-truths” during interrogations and the trial belied the self-defense argument.

“She’s never shown any remorse,” he said, but is concerned only with her own self-interest.

Picerno asked Collins to take “what she’s been through in the previous decade” into consideration in assessing punishment.

Javon Donahue’s mother, Warnetta Donahue, in a victim impact statement, said Javon had been taken from her and his family, adding, “We’d like her to be punished for destroying his life … and his family.”

Stating Jema Donahue “has never shown remorse,” she said Javon’s death “was a senseless act” from which the family is still suffering.

Collins, who earlier had sentenced Russell Shuey in a different shooting death case, said Jema Donahue was “the other side of the situation.”

He said he listened to testimony during the trial about Jema and Javon Donahue’s relationship, noting “everybody stayed in the relationship.”

In pronouncing sentence, Collins told Jema Donahue, “Somebody died.”

Staff Writer Sue Sterling can be reached by emailing sue.sterling@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.