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Jun. 2—A 30-year prison sentence is possible for a Terre Haute man who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and burglary in the November 2017 slaying of a local landlord.
Kenneth Pitts Jr., 58, pleaded guilty today in Vigo Superior Court 6, avoiding jury trial slated to begin Monday. Sentencing is set for Aug. 27.
Pitts was charged in the death of Alice "Anita" Oswald, who died in her home Nov. 9, 2017.
"Our primary goal is to protect the community. With the defendant's age, he could be in prison until over 80 years of age with the time he faces under this agreement," Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said.
Voluntary manslaughter is a killing committed while acting under sudden heat. After a lengthy investigation, the evidence in the case demonstrated that Pitts entered the residence of Alice Oswald to burglarize the home. Oswald, who was known to carry a firearm, returned to her home and found Pitts inside.
The investigation shows at that time, Oswald fired a shot striking Pitts in the face. Pitts then struck Oswald in the head and face with a small ax at least twice, killing her. Her body was later recovered from a lake. Pitts was later apprehended in Nevada.
A fire set at the house following Oswald's death destroyed evidence of the homicide.
"This was a challenging case with no eyewitnesses to the event and no forensic or DNA evidence identifying the perpetrator. Witnesses were fearful to testify and attempted to hide to avoid having to testify," Modesitt said. "Although no direct evidence linking Pitts to the crime was found, through hundreds of hours of work from the Terre Haute Police Department enough circumstantial evidence was assembled to prosecute this case.
"Under Indiana law the facts are consistent with voluntary manslaughter as his killing Anita may be interpreted by a jury as being in response to being shot in the face — sudden heat," Modesitt said.
He added that everyone on the prosecution team is thankful to the many agencies involved in the investigation, including city police and firefighters, the Vigo County Sheriff's Department, Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, Vigo County Search and Rescue and their K-9 partners, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.