Billy D. Kissner pleaded guilty to an amended count of manslaughter in Delta District Court Wednesday, July 31. Sentencing has been set for Oct. 31.
Kissner was originally charged with second degree murder in connection with the death of his wife Raelynn in November 2010.
According to court documents filed by district attorney Dan Hotsenpiller, Kissner reported to the first responders that Raelynn had been drinking and had gone into the hot tub on her own. When he went to check on her, he found her face down in the hot tub. He reported he removed his wife from the hot tub and called 911. No first responder observed the victim in the hot tub. No evidence of violence or foul play of any kind was observed. Raelynn was transported to Delta County Memorial Hospital but efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.
On the following day, an autopsy revealed injuries to Raelynn Kissner's head and face. According to the court document, the injuries were significant, although they were not deemed to be "serious bodily injury" as defined by Colorado law and were not directly life threatening. The initial forensic examiner was not able to determine a cause of death. The findings at the initial autopsy were not clearly indicative of drowning, but drowning could not be ruled out.
At the conclusion of the initial investigation into Raelynn's death, Hotsenpiller determined his office did not have sufficient evidence to justify criminal charges against anyone.
Then in May 2012, Delta County Sheriff's Detective Luke Fedler was contacted by one of Billy's siblings. According to the court document, this family member reported Billy had confessed to killing Raelynn. The sibling provided numerous writings authored by Billy that referenced the incident with Raelynn. The sibling further reported concerns that Billy was a danger to himself or others due to his emotional state.
"The defendant's statements are voluminous and they have been reviewed and analyzed by the Delta County Sheriff's Office and the Office of the District Attorney with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain Information Network, a law enforcement support agency located in Arizona," Hotsenpiller wrote in the court filing. "The statements repeatedly accept responsibility for killing Raelynn Kissner. They do not, however, contain factual details regarding the mechanism and cause of death. The statements do indicate that the Kissners engaged in a verbal fight, that Raelynn was going to make a phone call, that the defendant then hit her and threw her in the hot tub.
"The prosecution has enlisted the expertise of several medical experts," the court document continues. "Two forensic examiners have reviewed this case, including the photographs and tissue samples taken during the first autopsy as well as summaries of the defendant's statements. Neither forensic examiner can identify the cause of death in this case, and neither forensic examiner has concluded that the cause of death was either a homicide or accidental. The other three medical experts also contacted were also not able to make definitive findings or conclusions."
The DA also enlisted the expertise of an aquatic death investigator, who found Raelynn's death was not consistent with an accidental drowning.
Although the cause of death has not been identified, Kissner has admitted — in the plea agreement — that he recklessly caused Raelynn's death as an act of domestic violence.
Raelynn's family members were given an opportunity to address the court during the hearing last week, but there was no response from the scattering of individuals in the courtroom. Hostenpiller informed the court that some of her family members support the agreement and some oppose the agreement because they do not believe Kissner should be convicted of any crime. "The people are aware of no immediate family member that believe this agreement is objectionable as too lenient," the plea agreement states.
Additionally, Raelynn's family does not believe Kissner should serve any time in prison.
Manslaughter is a class four felony which carries a presumptive sentencing range of two to six years. If Judge Charles Greenacre determines extraordinary mitigating circumstances exist, the sentence may be as short as one year and it may not entail any prison time at all.
During the short hearing, Kissner was represented by Denver attorney Harvey Steinberg. Kissner has been free on a $100,000 bond since shortly after his arrest.blog comments powered by Disqus