January 10, 2013

Myrtle Beach area man sentenced to 17 years in prison in wife’s death

MYRTLE BEACH A Carolina Forest man pleaded guilty to killing his wife two years ago and was sentenced Wednesday to more than 17 years in prison, according to officials.

MYRTLE BEACH A Carolina Forest man pleaded guilty to killing his wife two years ago and was sentenced Wednesday to more than 17 years in prison, according to officials.

James Edward Lippert, 50, pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter in the Nov. 21, 2011, death of his 39-year-old wife, Marsella Lippert at their home, said 15th Circuit Assistant Solicitor J. Scott Hucks.

Circuit Court Judge Larry Hyman sentenced James Lippert to 17 years and six months in prison after hearing mitigating evidence from several family members and the community, who asked for leniency for Lippert, Hucks said.

Hyman also took into consideration that Lippert did not have a criminal record when he sentenced Lippert, who will be eligible for supervised release after he serves 85 percent of his sentence.

Marsella Lippert died from multiple facial trauma and stab wounds to the chest, according to authorities.

"Under the circumstances, our family feels that justice has been served,” said Tammy M. Butcher, Marsella Lippert’s sister. “We were hopeful not only for justice for Marcy, but that the children would be able to live their lives without worrying about their future and that he would not be released until they were adults and could make their own decisions.”

But Butcher said she was disappointed in some statements made by family members that had an impact on James Lippert’s sentence.

“In addition, through this process with the justice system, we have learned that not only do ‘pleas’ offer the offender the possibility of a lesser charge and sentence; it also gives the offender the advantage of full defense that is practically non-debatable by the victims friends and family,” Butcher said. “In this case, Mr. Lippert’s defense team was able to compile a ‘notebook’ of material on his behalf which was presented to the Judge that the victim’s family is not even privy to, and therefore cannot dispute, while Marcy received a verbal summary of the tragedy, a review of the ‘notebook,’ description of the crime scene and related facts and family member’s impact statements. We could have supplied a notebook of support for her as well, however, in a plea hearing, it is not allowed. It does not seem quite fair to us.

“We do feel, however, that Judge Hyman was fair in his decision, that all legal parties were professional and compassionate, and that the ’85 percent rule’ South Carolina has adopted will make a difference in crime.”

Police said James Lippert said he and his wife argued before he beat and fatally stabbed her at the couple’s Covington Lakes home in Carolina Forest.

The couple’s two children – ages 5 and 8 – were home at the time of the attack. They told police they were in the bathroom and heard screaming and a dog barking but did not see the killing.

Police said Lippert had blood on his hands and shorts when they arrived. Officers said he told them twice, “I kill just killed my wife,’’ according to a police report. Officers found Marsella Lippert on the back porch of the home with severe trauma to her face and what looked like several stab wounds to her arms.

An Horry County grand jury indicted Lippert on a charge of murder in January 2012.

Lippert has been held at J. Reuben Long Detention Center without bond since his arrest in 2011. He will now be transferred to the S.C. Department of Corrections.

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