A Goodman man pleaded guilty Friday to the murder of his brother-in-law in December 2010 and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime.
Terry Smith, 37, entered the plea to a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 12, 2010, slaying of Steve Gunn in that man’s rural Neosho home.
Smith was originally charged with first-degree murder. Jake Skouby, Newton County prosecutor, said the charge was reduced as evidence came to light that the crime was not premeditated.
Skouby said Smith had brought a gun to the home in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 2010 and had argued with his brother-in-law, allegedly about statements made about him and falsely attributed to his sister, who was Gunn’s wife. The altercation apparently turned ugly.
“In his testimony, Smith said he ‘snapped’ and at that point, pulled out the gun and flourished it,” Skouby said. “When he pointed the gun at his sister, the victim grabbed for it and the men wrestled around. Sometime in the struggle, someone pulled the trigger.
“At that point, we didn’t feel like it was an intentional shooting.”
Newton County deputies responding to the scene at 12331 Sorrel Road found Gunn with a gunshot wound to the head. Gunn’s wife had told authorities her brother came to the house and shot her husband to death.
Smith was later arrested at a Goodman residence by deputies with the McDonald County Sheriff’s Department.
A Class A felony, second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 30 years or life in prison. Smith received a 20-year sentence, of which he will serve at least 85 percent.
The guilty plea came four days before a two-day jury trial was to have begun in Newton County.