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Sentencing postponed for manslaughter suspect

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge has postponed sentencing a Sissonville man who shot another to death a year ago until he undergoes a psychological evaluation.

Dale Thomas Newhouse, 55, faces three to 15 years in the penitentiary after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Killed was James Bryan Shaffer, 41, also of Sissonville.

Newhouse's attorney, Bill Forbes, and his sister said that when the shooting occurred the defendant had recently returned from a rehabilitation facility. He had suffered a coma and brain injury after being assaulted by the half-brother of the shooting victim, they told the judge.

That was the kind of information Forbes said he would have presented to a jury if Newhouse had gone to trial. Instead, he avoided being convicted of murder and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in July.

At Tuesday's hearing, Forbes called two witnesses on Newhouse's behalf.

Thelma Edens, Newhouse's sister, said, "When he came home he was very frail. But he was not violent. He is an alcoholic, but he would do anything for anybody. He was too good."

Larry Reed, Newhouse's neighbor, told the judge that he heard shots that night.  He said Newhouse showed up on his porch, confessed the shooting and laid the gun down. They waited there for police, he said.

"He said, 'I've shot Jamie,'" Reed testified. "And he said, 'I kept telling him I was not going to let him hurt me.'"

Forbes told the judge that Newhouse knew the victim and had allowed him to stay at his house for a while.

"Jamie had a serious drug problem," Forbes said. "He moved into his house and took advantage of him, and he couldn't get rid of him."

Family members evicted Shaffer, he said, but he showed up that night trying to get in with his girlfriend. Forbes said Newhouse retreated to his bedroom, coming out with a gun when he thought the two were gone.

The judge said there were different versions of what happened that night.

"The circumstances are in great factual dispute," Bailey said. "But we have someone who has died by a bullet shot by this man.

She cited Newhouse's long criminal history -- a litany of charges from 1984 that include domestic battery, malicious assault, fleeing from police, driving under the influence, public intoxication and assault with a weapon.

Most of those charges were dismissed.

"I don't know why he even had a gun," she said. "I'm trying to imagine why a loved one who knew how he behaved and how he drank thought he should have a gun."

Forbes asked for a three to five-year sentence, and Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Drummond told the judge a 15-year term was appropriate. But Bailey postponed that sentence until she learns more about Newhouse's mental state.

"It matters not to me whether that other individual had a criminal history," Bailey said. "He was someone's son, someone's loved one. And his life has value." Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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