One by one, Alecia Wheeler‘s sister pulled items out of a blue plastic shopping bag. First, a small blue lunchbox, then a pink one, another pink one, and another pink one. A borrowed Army jacket Wheeler wore, then a crumpled Mylar balloon. It read “Happy Birthday,” and had been tied to the stroller Wheeler was pushing when she was attacked and killed.
Her sister held the stroller up.
“He has destroyed the hearts of my sister’s children who witnessed the murder of their mother,” she said of Claude Kinney, standing about three feet away, shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit. Kinney looked away from her, bitting his lower lip.
“No child should have the burden to have to go before a grand jury and talk about how they saw their dad murder their mom,” she said.
Kinney, 48, pleaded guilty in October to first-degree murder in the violent stabbing assault on Wheeler, his estranged wife and mother of his children. On Friday he was sentenced to thirty years in prison for the crime, the minimum sentence for a charge of first-degree murder.
Wheeler’s family asked for more prison time.
“Impose something for the children, consecutive [to the murder sentence]” another sister said. “Fifteen or thirty years per child. They will not forget.”
At sentencing, Fisher said that had the case gone to trial and had Kinney been found guilty, a longer sentence could have been appropriate. But he added that his decision to accept the plea offer, as little as it may seem, was made, in part, because of the children. Fisher said he wished to spare them from having to testify and be cross-examined, reliving an incredible trauma in a very public way.
“The most important part is to try… to avoid further emotional trauma to the family and to the children,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see these children suffer any more.”
Kinney stabbed Wheeler with at least three knives as she was walking her four children home from school the afternoon of Sept. 13. When he entered his plea, Kinney told Judge Gerald Fisher that the government was correct when it said that he had stabbed Wheeler with at least three knives as she was walking her four children home from school the afternoon of Sept. 13.
The oldest child, who was nine, ran for help. Finding an MPD officer she said, “my mommy just got stabbed.”
Wheeler had received a protection order the day before the stabbing and Kinney had attempted to retrive belongings from their residence earlier that day. He was arrested in a traffic stop about 15 minutes after the stabbing when an officer recognized his truck from a lookout issued by MPD.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” Kinney said at his sentencing Friday. “I’m sorry for my children. They lost a mother and father. If I could go back in time and change what happened I would.”
A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below:
District Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison For Killing His Wife in Front of Their Children- Stabbed the Victim in Broad Daylight in Northeast Washington -
WASHINGTON- Claude Kinney, 48, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 30 years of incarceration on a charge of first degree murder stemming from the stabbing last year of his estranged wife in Northeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Kinney pled guilty in October 2011 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Gerald I. Fisher.
According to the government’s evidence, Kinney and the victim, Alecia Wheeler, 42, were married but had been estranged for at least several months prior to the homicide. The couple had three children in common, ages 1, 3 and 5. On September 12, 2011, the day before her murder, Ms. Wheeler obtained a temporary protection order from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which compelled Kinney to stay away from her as well as to stay away from her home in Northeast Washington, her workplace, and their children’s school/day care. The order also required Kinney to vacate the home that the two had shared together some months before.
On September 13, 2011, several hours before the murder, Kinney called for police assistance to obtain items from the home. After the police left, Kinney remained in the area of the home, which is within a block of the children’s school and the alley where he later murdered Ms. Wheeler. Sometime that same day, Kinney also visited one of the three children he fathered with Ms. Wheeler at school. He also was spotted in the area around the children’s school during the hour before the murder occurred.
At approximately 3 p.m., Ms. Wheeler left the school on foot with the three children she had in common with the defendant, as well as an older daughter, who is 9. As Ms. Wheeler and the children walked down the alley behind the school in the 1200 block of Neal Street NE, Kinney pulled up beside them in his red Dodge pick-up truck. He got out of his truck holding at least one knife in his hand, which was wrapped in a towel. He grabbed Ms. Wheeler and stabbed her numerous times in the head, neck, chest and back. As he did this, Ms. Wheeler’s nine-year-old daughter screamed, “My Mommy is getting stabbed.”
When people in the area began to respond to the screams, Kinney threw Ms. Wheeler to the ground, got back into his truck, and sped off. Police recovered three broken knives in the area.
Ms. Wheeler’s nine-year-old daughter ran back to the school to get help. Once there, she told a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, “My Mommy just got stabbed!” This officer ran to the rear of 1299 Neal Street NE, and saw that Ms. Wheeler was suffering from multiple stab wounds, face down in a pool of blood. Ms. Wheeler was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead a short time later. An autopsy performed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia revealed the cause of death to be multiple stab wounds.
Within minutes after the stabbing, Kinney was apprehended by officers of MPD’s Fifth District, who received a look-out for the suspect and his vehicle. At approximately 3:15 p.m., officers spotted a truck matching the description in the area of the 2300 block of New York Avenue NE. Upon stopping the truck, which was being driven by the defendant, the officers saw that Kinney was covered in blood and that his right hand had several cuts on the palm and fingers. Officers saw blood on the front center and front passenger seat of the truck, along with a sock stained with blood on the front seat. There was also blood in the rear of the truck on the bumper and in the flat bed.
After being stopped, the defendant made the following statements at various times: “I don’t know why she made me do this.” “God, please forgive me.” “I’m sorry God, I failed my family, I failed my kids. I want to kill myself.” “What did I do?” “Shoot me. Just shoot me.”
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended MPD Detectives Darin March, Anthony McGee, Keith Batton and Duane Corbett for their work on the investigation, as well as Officer Jeffrey Zumwalt, who spotted and stopped the defendant, and Mobile Crime Technician Tony Nwani, who processed evidence of the crime. In addition, U.S. Attorney Machen expressed his appreciation to Paralegal Phil Aronson and Victim Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, both of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice and Sharon Donovan, who investigated and prosecuted the case.