By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It will be at least 20 years before 35-year-old Sean Messer will have the opportunity to make parole, after pleading guilty Tuesday morning to the murder of his girlfriend.
Messer entered the guilty plea before Laurel Circuit Judge Greg Lay, just minutes before he was scheduled to begin trial for the Oct. 22, 2012 stabbing death of his girlfriend, 25-year-old Pamela Honeycutt Bobbitt.
Messer agreed to serve 35 years in prison, and according to Kentucky law, must serve at least 20 years before his first parole eligibility on the murder charge. As part of the plea agreement, the charges of fleeing police and resisting arrest were dismissed. Messer will be formally sentenced on Nov. 25.
An uneaten McDonald’s sandwich still laid in the yard outside the apartment that Bobbitt and Messer shared the morning after the stabbing that cost Bobbitt her life. Neighbors reported seeing Messer attack Bobbitt in the yard after she returned from the fast food restaurant, then the physical altercation went inside, where Messer stabbed Bobbitt numerous times and fled the scene. He was taken into custody hours later after trying to take Bobbitt’s car from a nearby car dealership where she had dropped it off for repairs. Messer has been held in the Laurel County Detention Center under a $250,000 cash bond since his arrest on Oct. 23 of last year.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said the 35 years in prison was a good sentence for Messer, as he could have received between 20 to 50 years, or life imprisonment, had the case gone before a jury. The plea agreement has been on the table for Messer for quite some time, he said, but Messer declined acting on it until minutes before the trial was set to begin.
“We were set to start at 9 a.m. and they came to us about 8:55,” Steele said. “He’s had offers since Oct. 30 and even asked for more time to consider them. We went over there (Laurel County Detention Center) several times last week to discuss it but it wasn’t until today that (defense attorneys - Jennifer Milligan and Roger Gibbs from the Office of Public Advocacy) came to us.”
Steele said normally violent crimes are punishable by having to serve 85 percent of a sentence, which would leave Messer having to pull over 29 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
“It is state law that the maximum time you can pull is 20 years without being eligible for parole,” Steele explained.
Steele also said Messer’s case did not qualify for the death penalty because there were no mitigating circumstances such as another violent felony offense that led to the murder of Bobbitt. He was, however, pleased with the 35-year sentence.
“I feel good about the outcome,” he said, “although a person’s life was lost and can never be replaced. But now the defendant will have to think about his actions for the next 20 years.”
David Honeycutt, Bobbitt’s father, said it was an emotional time for his family.
“They couldn’t give him enough time for what he did,” he said. “But it’s good that it will be 20 years before he’s even eligible for parole. And we’re going to send letters to the parole board to review when he is eligible.”
Jackie Honeycutt, the victim’s uncle, said he was happy with the sentence. He was also happy the case ended with a plea agreement, rather than family members having to listen to all the evidence leading up to Pamela Bobbitt’s death. He did say the violent relationship between Messer and Bobbitt was a warning sign to other people involved in tumultuous situations.
He said the history between Bobbitt and Messer had always been violent and Messer was known among family members to abuse the 25-year-old mother of four. The youngest of Bobbitt’s children was fathered by Messer and family members said in previous interviews Messer had even threatened to harm the child if Bobbitt refused to comply with his wishes.
“All women in this situation need to realize that they need to get out,” Jackie Honeycutt said. “It all boils down to the person who is being abused. We can counsel and we can talk all we want to, but it’s really up to the person being abused to decide to get out.”