June 18, 2013

Sweeney gets 50 years

Pleads guilty to murder, all charges

By John L. Ross

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Five decades in jail — that’s what 47-year-old Jeffrey Sweeney received as a sentence Wednesday morning in Laurel County Circuit Court.

Sweeney was slated for a jury trial Wednesday morning for the 2012 murder of 50-year-old Teresa A. Wyatt-White.

However, the trial was avoided after a plea deal was agreed upon.

Just after 9 a.m., the gallery was filled to capacity with potential jurors, and roll call for the jury pool began.

However, once the roll call was complete, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, and defense attorneys Roger Gibbs and Jennifer Milligan were asked to approach the bench. Judge Tom Jensen silenced the microphone, and after a short conversation, all three attorneys returned to their tables. Jensen recessed the court, and the attorneys filed out of the courtroom.

“Issues have come up that need discussed,” Jensen said, and asked potential jurors to return to the courtroom at 10 a.m.

All parties re-entered the courtroom at approximately that time,  except Sweeney, and Jensen informed the jury pool that a plea agreement had been reached.

Steele explained after court was recessed that Sweeney pled guilty to all counts listed on his June 2012 indictment — murder, first-degree robbery, tampering with evidence and arson.

“This is one of those cases that no matter how much time (is given to the guilty party), you still have the death of a community member,” Steele said. “Although the family is content with the outcome, there will always be a void for them that will never be filled.”

On March 29, 2012, Wyatt-White was discovered dead in her burned-out home on Newby Lane west of London.

Shortly before midnight that night, Kentucky State Trooper First Class Don Trosper said a neighbor called 9-1-1 to report smoke pouring from her home.

Despite a warning from dispatchers, a window was eventually broken by a concerned citizen — which sent the home into a full blaze.

Firefighters battled the inferno until the early morning hours. Wyatt-White’s body was discovered inside the residence, and she was pronounced dead at the scene, Trosper explained.

He added that an autopsy showed she was killed from blunt force trauma — prior to the fire.

Trosper explained Wyatt-White and Sweeney were “friends.” He added it appeared Sweeney murdered her, then set her house on fire to cover up the slaying.