Jury finds McAtee guilty of voluntary manslaughter in fatal Harrison County shooting

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UPDATE (3/29/2019) 7:27 p.m.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated 3 1/2 hours before convicting a Lumberport woman of felony voluntary manslaughter in the January 2018 shooting death of David Cottrill.

McAtee is facing three to 15 years in prison, with parole eligibility in three years. 

McAtee had been facing a murder charge, but the jury convicted her on a lesser charge.

Trial Day 5 (3/29/2019)

The defense rested its case on Friday as Melissa McAtee’s murder trial continued into its fifth day in Clarksburg.

Additionally, McAtee’s defense attorney filed an objection to the court on Friday. The objection stated that during the testimony of an investigator, the investigator referred to a trajectory analysis experiment, which yielded discovery evidence that was not provided to either the state or the defense. McAtee’s attorney argued that the evidence could have been exculpatory. The judge has not ruled on that objection as of 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

The judge sent the jury back to deliberate at 3:30 p.m.

Trial Day 4 (3/28/2019)

Cold-blooded murder, an accidental shooting, or something in between; that is what jurors, in the case of murder suspect Melissa McAtee, are trying to determine as her trial reached day four on Thursday. 

As the state rested, the defense presented its battered woman theory.  A clinical psychologist testified out order on Wednesday, who said he concluded McAtee had battered woman syndrome.

The defense put Hope Inc., Executive Director Michelle McCord on the stand to confirm that McAtee did stay at a shelter from July 25-30, 2017.

McAtee and Cottrill’s teenage son took the stand for a second time. The boy gave an emotional testimony Thursday morning. The state played an interview he had with the child advocacy center regarding what happened January 11, 2018 and his relationship with both his parents.

McAtee has pleaded innocent. The defense has launched a three-pronged defense alleging McAtee was going to hide the gun from Cottrill, who had threatened to kill her, when she was startled by him and it discharged; McAtee is a battered woman/spouse; and the state didn’t do enough processing of the crime scene to prevent reasonable doubt.

On Thursday afternoon, McAtee took the stand in her defense.  She described the day leading up to the shooting.  She and Cottrill had taken a trip to Ohio, and during that time, Cottrill abused McAtee by punching and head butting her.  McAtee also testified that Cottrill threatened that he was going to kill her and said once the people in the house left she was a “dead b—-.”  McAtee stated that she thought Cottrill was going to kill her.

As for the events surrounding the shooting, McAtee testified that she never said “I killed that motherf—–“.  McAtee stated that when she accidentally shot Cottrill, she thought there were no rounds in the gun.  McAtee said she tried to stop Cottrill from bleeding by using her hands and a cloth.

The prosecution attempted to poke holes in McAtee’s testimony and showed body cam footage from that night.  McAtee could not point out where the blood was on her hands or clothes when asked.  The prosecution also pointed out that the video showed no marks on her face.  McAtee stated that Cottrill punched and head butted her in the back and side of her head.

McAtee finished testifying on Thursday.  Two to four more defense witnesses are expected to testify on Friday.

Trial Day 3 (3/27/2019)

The third day of Melissa McAtee’s murder trial is continuing Wednesday in Clarksburg.

A juvenile teenage girl who was in McAtee and Cottrill’s trailer when Cottrill was shot testified on Wednesday. The girl testified that she saw McAtee pull the trigger and shoot Cottrill. The juvenile also testified that McAtee then threw the gun down and said, I killed the motherf—–! with a smirk on her face.

The couple’s teenage son also gave emotional testimony Wednesday morning.  The boy had trouble remembering some details of the evening, which happened to be his birthday, but said that his parents were arguing and that McAtee was scared that Cottril was going to hurt her.  The boy did not see the shooting, but heard a loud bang and turned around and saw the gun being thrown on the floor.

The teen testified that he had previously seen Cottrill hit McAtee’s head off the wall during arguments.

As the trial continued into the afternoon, a defense witness testified out of order due to his schedule. The defense witness was a clinical psychologist who examined McAtee.

With the evaluations the clinical psychologist conducted, and the evidence provided to him, he concluded that McAtee has battered woman syndrome. The clinical psychologist said McAtee told him the gun went off accidentally.

The prosecution countered that all pertinent records were not available to the doctor and some discrepancies occurred with statements that McAtee had made in the past.

Other wtinesses for the state included Junior Moore, a hunter education course instructor, who testified that in 2002, Melissa McAtee passed a hunter safety course. 

The jury also heard from Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy John Flanagan who detained and transported McAtee. The jury was also able to watch Flanagan’s body camera footage.

Trial Day 2 (3/26/2019)

A Lumberport woman charged with murder appeared in court for the second day of her trial in Clarksburg on Tuesday.

Melissa McAtee, 35, is accused of shooting and killing David Cottrill at their residence in January 2018. McAtee was indicted in May 2018 and had a pre-trial conference in Harrison County Court on March 5, 2019.

In court on Tuesday, the jury heard from three witnesses including an official from the Harrison-Taylor County 911 Center, David Cottrill’s mother Deloris Cottrill, who was at the home the night of the shooting, and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy who processed the scene.

The jury was also shown photos from the crime scene and heard the 911 call from that night. The trial will continue on Wednesday.

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