Thursday, August 24, 2000

Wife's murder case goes to grand jury


Family says shooting was self-defense

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Josie Whitaker (right) gets a kiss from a supporter after a judge bound her murder case over to the grand jury.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        HAMILTON — A Butler County judge refused Wednesday to dismiss a murder charge against a 68-year-old woman who told police her husband beat her, sexually assaulted her, and then threatened to kill her before she shot him.

        Judge J.B. Connaughton of Butler County Area II Court ruled there was enough evidence against Josie Whitaker to send her case to the grand jury.

        But he said he wouldn't be surprised if the grand jury sent the case back to his court on a reduced misdemeanor charge.

        Mrs. Whitaker's children

        and other relatives consoled her after the judge's decision at the preliminary hearing.

        “It'll be OK, Mom,” said her 51-year-old daughter, Charlotte Thomas, of Hamilton.

        Mrs. Whitaker's attorneys say she shot her 70-year-old husband, William, in self-defense on July 31 in their Hanover Township home.

        Her children and others who know the couple say Mrs. Whitaker suffered physical abuse from Mr. Whitaker throughout their 52-year marriage.

        Mrs. Thomas said her father would have killed her mother on July 31 if she hadn't shot him.

        “There was no way she could have gotten out of that house alive,” she said. “He meant to kill her. It's a clear case of self-defense.”

        Because of the limited scope of a preliminary hearing, Judge Connaughton refused to allow Mrs. Whitaker's children to testify about their father's previous violence against her and them.

        On a 911 tape that was played in court, Mrs. Whitaker told the sheriff's dispatcher that her husband was trying to kill her when she shot him.

        Mrs. Whitaker, who remains free on her own recognizance, wiped tears from her eyes as she listened to the tape.

        Sheriff's Detective Katie McMahon said Mrs. Whitaker gave her this account:

        Mr. Whitaker came out of the basement on the evening of July 31 and pulled a clump of hair from his wife's head and beat her. He also sexually assaulted her in their bedroom.

        She threw the foreign object he had used in the assault into the hall. When he went to retrieve it, she pulled a handgun he had given her from a drawer.

        She shot him in the left side when he returned. He followed her into the kitchen, and after warning him to stop, she shot him in the chest.

        Detective McMahon said she noticed a mark on Mrs. Whitaker's face and bruises on her neck and ear.

        Butler County's coroner, Dr. Richard Burkhardt, said the shot to the chest caused Mr. Whitaker's death.

        Deputy Duane Monroe, who was the first law enforcement officer at the Whitaker house, said that Mrs. Whitaker told him she shot her husband in self-defense.

        He said she told him: “He was going to kill me. He told me yesterday he was going to kill me. Oh, my God. I can't believe I killed my husband.”

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