Berkeley County woman pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter in husband's death

Maria Decicio-Smith could face 3 to 15 years in prison

sentencing set for Sept. 9

June 27, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Maria Decicio-Smith
West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A 38-year-old woman accused in the 2007 shooting death of her estranged husband could serve three to 15 years in prison after she pleaded no contest Monday in Berkeley County Circuit Court to one count of voluntary manslaughter.

Maria Decicio-Smith, who is in jail, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9 by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

Decicio-Smith, who was indicted in 2008 on one count of first-degree murder, became emotional during the plea hearing and interrupted her attorney to tell the judge that she wanted to “say her piece.”

Decicio-Smith’s trial was to begin Tuesday.

On Oct. 15, 2007, Decicio-Smith allegedly shot Richard E. Amundson, 45, five times — twice in the back of the head at very close range and with a weapon that had to be cocked each time, defense attorney B. Craig Manford said before Decicio-Smith interrupted him.

“It’s been four years ... I did what I had to do,” a tearful Decicio-Smith interjected before she was advised not to make any further statements until her sentencing hearing.

Amundson was found facedown in the basement behind the furnace area in Decicio-Smith’s home at 210 Gussie Ave., with a rotisserie fork near his left hand, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Monday.

The fork was later found to be part of crime scene contamination concerns and evidence of domestic violence between the deceased and Decicio-Smith in Wyoming, which also surfaced in the investigation by police, which Games-Neely said was “extremely thorough.”

“She was indeed a victim of a domestic battery (in Wyoming),” Games-Neely said.  

Games-Neely and Manford indicated Monday that a jury in Decicio-Smith’s case could “go either way” in deciding the outcome and that the plea deal was the best option.

After the hearing, Games-Neely said investigators found that Decicio-Smith and Amundson married in October 2006 and that the first domestic incident occurred in November of that year.

There are records of multiple domestic incidents involving the deceased, who was incarcerated for one domestic battery conviction, and there was one reported domestic charge against Decicio-Smith, Games-Neely said Monday.

Games-Neely said the rotisserie fork supposedly replaced a knife that was never found. She said Monday there also were questions as to whether furniture overturned in the home was staged or was the result of a domestic incident.

When police arrived at Decicio-Smith’s residence, they found her holding a gun to her head, and officers had to use a Taser on her to free the weapon from her hand and get her under control, according to court records.

No members of Amundson’s family were at Monday’s hearing. Afterward, Games-Neely said Amundson’s next of kin is a twin brother, Paul Leo Amundson, who has been “on the run” from the government for years and is wanted on a federal warrant for terrorist acts. The brothers’ adoptive parents are deceased and the twins’ biological mother recently suffered a stroke and is unable to travel, Games-Neely said.

Under terms of the plea agreement, Wilkes is expected to pick an exact amount of time that Decicio-Smith will serve behind bars, but she also will get credit for close to a year that she already served, according to Games-Neely. Decicio-Smith also will pay court costs and could be ordered to pay restitution pending the outcome of a presentence investigation by the court’s probation office.

Since the homicide, Decicio-Smith has been treated at William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston, W.Va., on at least two occasions, and Games-Neely said questions of Decicio-Smith’s competency to stand trial contributed to the delay in the case.

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