News Nugget – Plea Deal Reached In Murder Trial
On Tuesday, September 25th in the Highland County Courthouse, Robert Marshall Cornelius pled guilty to second degree murder in the shooting death of his paternal grandmother, Ruth Knave on September 17th, 2017. The defendant’s attorney’s and the Commonwealth reached a plea agreement to amend the original charge of first degree murder, as well as drop other felony charges related to the case. Cornelius, 15, entered an Alford plea, which is a guilty plea in which a defendant does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence, but admits that the evidence presented by the prosecution would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. questioned Cornelius to ascertain he understood the implications of his guilty plea, and found that he did. Commonwealth special prosecutor Charles Simmons then presented the judge with a summary of the evidence the prosecution would have provided, and the Judge found it sufficient to warrant accepting the guilty plea. The crime carries a possible sentence from between 5 and 40 years in a penitentiary. Defense made a motion for social history and pre-sentencing report, and the Commonwealth made a motion for a victim impact statement, both of which were granted. The sentencing hearing was set for December 20th at 10:00 am. Pursuant to the plea arrangement, the defendant remains free on bail until sentencing.