Jul. 23—GOSHEN — An Elkhart woman convicted of killing her husband faces a more than five decade prison term.
Knesha Carruthers, 35, appeared in Elkhart County Circuit Court on Thursday, nearly a month after a jury found her guilty of murder. She was convicted June 24 at the end of a four-day trial.
Carruthers was accused of stabbing and killing her husband, Jimmie Lee Gilliam, 33, with a kitchen knife after a dispute arose while the couple partied with friends at their home along West Jefferson Street in the early morning hours of July 27, 2019.
Following a more than hour-long hearing, Judge Michael Christofeno sentenced Carruthers to 55 years in prison.
Through tears and sobs, Carruthers apologized for Gilliam's death and lamented the loss.
"Jimmie is my best friend, the love of my life, and I am painfully heartbroken," Carruthers said. "I've got to live the rest of my life without him."
Carruthers' attorneys sought a more lenient sentence as they interviewed witnesses to help argue Carruthers was a traumatized victim of domestic violence leading up to Gilliam's death.
"She was always being abused, and she didn't want to tell nobody," Aretha Robinson, a close friend of Carruthers, told the court.
Robinson and Carruthers' cousin, Miriah Carruthers, both described incidents and situations of domestic violence or tension, which seemed to increase after the couple lost a child apparently at some time in the last four or five years.
They also praised her parenting skills, even while she's been in jail for the past two years.
"She's a great person," Miriah Carruthers testified. "This incident does not define her. She's beautiful, inside and out."
When questioned by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kathleen Claeys, both women said they were aware Carruthers' children were in the home at the Gilliam was stabbed. They also said they were not aware Carruthers had drank alcohol and used cocaine that night.
Stephanie Callaway, a forensic psychologist in Indianapolis, also testified during the hearing. She spoke about conclusions she reached after evaluating Carruthers prior to the trial, focusing on how domestic battery apparently affected Carruthers.
Callaway said she found Carruthers met criteria for a few mental health illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder and issues, as well as substance abuse, which indicated may have been a form of self-medicating.
"It's my opinion that she described essentially experiencing abuse by him, starting about a year into their relationship and continuing up until the offense," Callaway said.
One of Carruthers' attorneys, Mark Altenhof, argued for a 45-year prison sentence — a term on the low end of the sentencing range for murder — based on several factors, including the evidence that was presented on Carruthers' history of being battered. Altenhof also argued Gilliam's death was unintended.
"I hope the evidence is showing support that Kenesha certainly did not intend this outcome," Altenhof said.
Carruthers also said she didn't want her husband to die as she apologized to the court, her family and Gilliam's family.
"I wish that one day that they would find it in their hearts to forgive me," Carruthers said. "Under no circumstances did I ever want this outcome to be that my husband would end up dying."
In deciding on the 55-year sentence — the recommended term for murder in Indiana — Judge Christfeno noted he based his decision solely on how he believed Gilliam would likely be Carruthers' only victim.
After making his ruling, Carruthers told the judge she intended to appeal the conviction and sentence.
Several other hearings were held in Circuit Court on Thursday.
Among them, an Elkhart man admitted his role as the second of three suspects in the robbery of a man in Goshen last year.
Kevin Evans, 27, pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony count of robbery resulting in bodily injury. As part of the plea agreement, he faces a four-year prison sentence, followed by four years of alternative placement and four more years of probation.
Evans and another man, 27-year-old Tyrice Edmonson of Elkhart, had been accused of robbing and beating a man before leaving him in a dumpster in the 2800 block of Eisenhower Drive North on April 7, 2020. The incident came as the two were with a woman, LaNecia Sharp-Taylor, while she confronted the victim, her boyfriend, over photos on his phone.
Judge Christfeno accepted the plea and convicted Evans. He then scheduled his sentencing hearing to be held Aug. 26.
Evans' plea came a week after Edmonson appeared in court for an initial hearing in the case, in which he's also charged with a Level 3 felony count of robbery.
Taylor, 24, pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony count of aiding, inducing or causing robbery in November 2020. She was then sentenced to two years in prison, two-and-a-half years of alternative placement and four-and-a-half years of probation.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 240316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.