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Woman Pleads No Contest In 2017 Killing at McLure Hotel

Photo by Alan Olson Freda Davis is shown watching Friday’s court proceedings via teleconference from the Northern Regional Jail.

WHEELING — A Mingo County woman accepted a plea deal Friday morning for the 2017 killing of a Louisiana man, avoiding a murder charge but likely facing more than a decade behind bars.

Freda Davis, 38, of Williamson, entered an Alford plea before Judge David Sims, maintaining her innocence but acknowledging that she would likely be found guilty if her case went to trial.

In 2019, Davis was charged with murder in connection with the 2017 shooting death of

Terry Lyn Pendergrist Jr., who was found with a gunshot wound to the head at the McLure Hotel in Wheeling.

His death was initially suspected to be suicide. However, investigators later discovered that he had been shot to death in a homicide. Davis was indicted for murder in January 2019, and she was extradited back to the area last August after being transferred from a Kentucky jail on unrelated burglary charges.

According to the terms of the non-binding plea agreement, Davis entered an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter, with the state and her attorneys agreeing to a sentence of 15 years, the maximum for that charge. The minimum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is three years.

Davis will not seek parole during her incarceration; if she does, the state will be free to pursue the murder charge at trial. The court is not required to adhere to the terms of the agreement at her sentencing hearing Monday.

Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak gave a brief description of events as they unfolded on the night of Pendergrist’s death. Turak said that on the night of Aug 22, 2017, Pendergrist returned to the McLure Hotel, where he was staying while doing oil and gas work, sharing the room with Davis. After Davis was allegedly seen requesting a key to the room, which Pendergrist granted, she then went to the parking garage to meet with an unknown person while Pendergrist called the frost desk and asked that the locks be changed, as he did not want her in the room with him.

Around 8:17 p.m., Pendergrist was said to be on the phone with a lifelong friend, who said he overheard a fight break out between Pendergrist and Davis, who struck him. The last words the friend said he heard Pendergrist say were, “I’m not letting you rob me again!” Around 8:40 p.m., Turak said, Davis called 911, saying that Pendergrist had shot himself.

While the death was initially thought to be a suicide, a subsequent investigation determined that he was shot at intermediate range. Davis allegedly confessed to the killing to a friend later, providing details about mechanical defects with the gun to the friend, which was later corroborated by investigators.

Davis’ attorney, Kevin Neiswonger, acknowledged the amount of evidence against her was significant.

“There are very meritorious defenses, but as the state has indicated, there are also facts out there that, if the jury were to believe, she could be convicted,” Neiswonger said.

Davis, who was not present in court Friday but was participating via video conference from the Northern Regional Jail, said little in her own defense, answering Sims’ questions with yes or no, or one word answers.

Turak said she had been in contact with Pendergrist’s family, who gave their blessing for the state to proceed with the plea agreement. She said she was happy with the outcome of the case.

“This was a very tough case, and this is a good outcome,” Turak said after the hearing. “She had good defenses, she had great counsel. There were facts in favor that would have made this a much more serious outcome if a jury had gone our way. I think this is a resolution that I’m very proud of. This is justice, and it’s justice for Terry’s family.”

She said the victim’s family will be traveling from Louisiana to attend the sentencing at 9 a.m. Monday.

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