FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
For Information Contact:
District Man Pleads Guilty to First Degree Murder
For Killing His Wife in Front of Their Children
- Stabbed the Victim in Broad Daylight in Northeast Washington -
WASHINGTON - Claude Kinney, 48, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty today to a charge of first degree murder stemming from the stabbing of his estranged wife during a mid-day attack last month in Northeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen announced.
Kinney pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Under terms of the plea agreement reached between the government and the defendant, both parties agreed to request a sentence of 30 years of incarceration. If the Court does not agree that such a sentence is appropriate, the defendant may opt to withdraw his plea on the date of sentencing. The Honorable Gerald I. Fisher scheduled sentencing for January 13, 2012.
The charge of first degree murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years of incarceration. Statutes in the District would mandate that the defendant serve all 30 years of incarceration, with no possibility of an earlier release.
According to the government’s evidence, Kinney and the victim, Alecia Wheeler, 42, were married but had been estranged for at least several months prior to the homicide. The couple had three children in common, ages 1, 3 and 5. On September 12, 2011, the day before her murder, Ms. Wheeler obtained a temporary protection order from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which compelled Kinney to stay away from her as well as to stay away from her home in Northeast Washington, her workplace, and their children’s school/day care. The order also required Kinney to vacate the home that the two had shared together some months before.
On September 13, 2011, several hours before the murder, Kinney called for police assistance to obtain items from the home. After the police left, Kinney remained in the area of the home, which is within a block of the children's school and the alley where he later murdered Ms. Wheeler. Sometime that same day, Kinney also visited one of the three children he fathered with Ms. Wheeler at school. He also was spotted in the area around the children’s school during the hour before the murder occurred.
At approximately 3 p.m., Ms. Wheeler left the school on foot with the three children she had in common with the defendant, as well an older daughter, who is 9. As Ms. Wheeler and the children walked down the alley behind the school in the 1200 block of Neal Street NE, Kinney pulled up beside them in his red Dodge pick-up truck. He got out of his truck holding at least one knife in his hand, which was wrapped in a towel. He grabbed Ms. Wheeler and stabbed her numerous times in the head, neck, chest and back. As he did this, Ms. Wheeler’s nine-year-old daughter screamed, “My Mommy is getting stabbed.”
When people in the area began to respond to the screams, Kinney threw Ms. Wheeler to the ground, got back into his truck, and sped off. Police recovered three broken knives in the area.
Ms. Wheeler’s nine-year-old daughter ran back to the school to get help. Once there, she told a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, “My Mommy just got stabbed!” This officer ran to the rear of 1299 Neal Street NE, and saw that Ms. Wheeler was suffering from multiple stab wounds, face down in a pool of blood. Ms. Wheeler was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead a short time later. An autopsy performed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia revealed the cause of death to be multiple stab wounds.
Within minutes after the stabbing, Kinney was apprehended by officers of MPD's Fifth District, who received a look-out for the suspect and his vehicle. At approximately 3:15 p.m., officers spotted a truck matching the description in the area of the 2300 block of New York Avenue NE. Upon stopping the truck, which was being driven by the defendant, the officers saw that Kinney was covered in blood and that his right hand had several cuts on the palm and fingers. Officers saw blood on the front center and front passenger seat of the truck, along with a sock stained with blood on the front seat. There was also blood in the rear of the truck on the bumper and in the flat bed.
After being stopped, the defendant made the following statements at various times: “I don’t know why she made me do this.” “God, please forgive me.” “I’m sorry God, I failed my family, I failed my kids. I want to kill myself.” “What did I do?” “Shoot me. Just shoot me.”
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen commended MPD Detectives Darin March, Anthony McGee, Keith Batton and Duane Corbett for their work on the investigation, as well as Officer Jeffrey Zumwalt, who spotted and stopped the defendant, and Mobile Crime Technician Tony Nwani, who processed evidence of the crime. In addition, U.S. Attorney Machen expressed his appreciation to Paralegal Phil Aronson and Victim Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, both of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice and Sharon Donovan, who investigated and prosecuted the case.