Judge Michael Wagner sentenced a Cass County woman to 16 years in prison for killing her husband nearly four years ago.
A jury found Cynthia Walters, 63, guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action on January 17 after she fired a short-barrel revolver at her husband while he was resting in a recliner in a living room area inside the couple’s home in the 1500 block of E. 187th St. of rural Belton on Sept. 6, 2010.
Lawyers asked Wagner for leniency in Walter’s sentencing March 27, disputing that the shooting was nothing more than a tragic accident.
Attorney Scott Friedrich argued that Walters believed the gun was unloaded, as her husband reportedly told her that all the guns in the home were empty, despite the fact that a deputy found three other loaded handguns in the house.
“She didn’t intentionally mean to do anything,” Friedrich said. “You could tell in her eyes it was a tragedy. Nobody deserves to go to prison for the rest of her life...for a tragedy.”
Walters claimed she just wanted to scare her husband by hearing the gun click after tension had been high between the couple in the days leading up to the incident.
But the gun fired, and the bullet hit 66-year-old Robert Walters in the upper lip area on his face.
She immediately called 911 for paramedic assistance when she observed that he was not breathing.
“I shot my husband,” she told a dispatcher.
After the gun went off, Walters, a nurse by occupation, began giving her husband CPR as she waited for help to arrive. Blood from his wound got in her mouth and on her face, officers later observed.
She told police she didn’t know the gun was loaded.
Within minutes, Walters was taken into custody by law enforcement officers and transported to the Cass County Jail.
The victim died from his injuries two days later after he underwent surgery to remove the bullet from his body.
The couple initially married in 1979, but had divorced twice. They had gotten back together and were living in the same home at the time of the incident, but were not legally married.
During an interview with investigators on the night of the crime, Walters said they always bickered at each other. In the days leading up to the incident, Walters had expressed that she wanted to go back to work as a registered nurse at a long-term care facility, but he had told her that “she was stupid” and that she “might as well give up.”
Walters hadn’t worked in two years after she fainted as a result from a medical condition. However, her husband was still drawing a paycheck in her name each month from the care facility he owned, in the amount of $3,600 each month. Walters only received $500 from the paycheck, and wanted to go to work so she could make her own money. Walters said he would no longer be able to collect the money if she found new work.
“I had no idea the gun was loaded,” Walters told Cass County Sheriff’s Office investigators during a recorded interview hours after she was arrested. “I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
Subpoenaed by the state to testify against her mother, Christy Stewart told jurors that she had overheard her mom’s side of a phone conversation between the couple while on a shopping trip the day before the incident that involved an employee from the business.
Stewart said she heard Walters telling her father that she “never wanted to talk to him again.”
David Combs, Overland Park, Kan., spoke on the witness stand in regard to the accusations against Walters, who is his sister-in-law, during the sentencing.
“It was a bad decision, bad accident,” he said. “She never intended to hurt Bob. She is by far one of the most loving people I knew.”
Combs said he brings a unique perspective to case – being a family member, former law enforcement officer and an avid shooter.
“She’s not the monster, murderer that the prosecution has portrayed her to be,” Combs said.
While the defense asked the judge for probation at the sentencing hearing, Assistant Cass County Prosecutors Jamie Hunt and Erin Beck sought the maximum punishment on the murder charge – a 30-year sentence at a Missouri Department of Corrections prison.
“She recklessly caused the death of Robert Walters,” said Hunt, at the trial. “She chose to raise that gun and point it at her husband’s head.”
Prosecutors initially charged Walters with first-degree murder and a count of armed criminal action, asserting that she acted with cool reflection and intentionally murdered her husband. But following the four-day trial, the jury found her guilty of lesser second-degree murder charge, and armed criminal action.
Walters chose not to testify in her case during the jury trial, but did offer an apology to Judge Wagner in the closing moments of the sentencing.
She weeped with tears in her eyes.
“The crime I’ve been convicted of is a horrible one. I’m not a cold, heartless killer,” she said. “I’m really sorry. I’m begging for mercy.”
Wagner sentenced Walters to serve 16 years in prison on both of the charges. Sentences will run concurrent.