A Knoxville woman faces murder charges after county sheriff’s deputies said she shot and killed her fiance early Tuesday, according to court charging documents.
Michelle Leigh Handorf, 37, called 911 sometime early Tuesday and said that she had just shot her fiance, Wesley Alan Gibson, at their home in the 3800 block of South Mountain Road, according to the documents. Gibson was suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper chest and right hand when deputies and emergency rescue personnel arrived a short time later. Handorf had been holding pressure over Gibson’s wound until rescue workers arrived, but Gibson was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital for treatment, the documents state.
Deputies arrested Handorf and took her to the sheriff’s office headquarters to interview her about the shooting. Two children who were present in the house were also taken to the sheriff’s office separate from Handorf.
Handorf told detectives that Gibson suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was frequently abusive toward her, but stated that she had never fought back or resisted up to that point, the documents state. Under further questioning, Handorf told the deputies that she “just wanted [Gibson] to stop hurting her,” according to the charging documents.
According to Handorf’s account, Gibson verbally abused her Thursday and Friday, then took to slapping her and pulling her hair on Saturday, with the physical abuse and threats worsening over the weekend. At different points over the weekend, Handorf said Gibson grabbed her throat, put out a cigarette on her right palm and threatened to throw her down the stairs between threats to kill her and her family, according to the charging documents.
The violence and threats continued into Monday evening, coming to a head after the children went to sleep at about 9 p.m., according to Handorf’s statements outlined in the charging documents. Gibson took a shower at about 11 p.m. Monday and, while he was in the bathroom, Handorf said she noticed Gibson’s handgun, a Hi-Point Model C-9 9 mm pistol, on his nightstand.
Handorf told deputies she took the gun, removed the magazine, cleared the chamber and hid the weapon on a bookshelf in another room, the documents state. Gibson noticed the gun was missing when he left the bathroom and yelled at Handorf, demanding to know where the gun was. Handorf said she then retrieved the weapon, reloading it as she walked back into the bedroom but putting the safety on, according to the documents.
Gibson was looking at his phone when Handorf re-entered the bedroom, but quickly realized she was holding the gun, at which point Handorf said he got “a crazy look in his eye” and turned to face her, according to the deputies’ report. Fearing that Gibson would kill her, Handorf raised the gun, took off the safety and fired a single shot when Gibson took a step toward her, the documents state.
An examination of Handorf after her arrest revealed “some small bruises on her forearm” and “some loose hair coming out of her hair,” according to the documents. Handorf also complained of chest pain from where she said Gibson had punched her earlier, as well as pain to her head from where she said he had grabbed her by the hair, but her injuries were “nothing extensive,” according to the wording in the charging documents.
Handorf was charged with first- and second-degree murder, as well as the use of a firearm in a felony crime of violence, according to online court records. Handorf was denied bail in her initial appearance before a District Court commissioner early Tuesday and remained in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center awaiting a bail review hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, the records state.
The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office refused to answer any questions regarding the case as of Tuesday. Will Cockey, an agency spokesman, cited the “open and continuing investigation” in a text message response to The Frederick News-Post’s questions Tuesday afternoon.
Taylor Clarke, a spokeswoman for the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, responded to The News-Post’s questions via email Tuesday afternoon, confirming that sheriff’s deputies responded to the house at 12:22 a.m. Tuesday and verifying that Gibson was flown by Maryland State Police helicopter to Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown, where he was later pronounced dead. Clarke was unable to provide many further details as of Tuesday afternoon, but she did confirm the children taken from the home were safe.
“From what I can gather, there were no immediate family in this area that could take custody of the children. Our victim/witness coordinator stayed with the children here at the Law Enforcement Center until they were released to Child Protective Services,” Clarke’s response reads in part.
Under Maryland criminal law, a conviction for first-degree murder requires proof that a person participated in a “deliberate, premeditated and willful killing” of another, according to the statute. The maximum penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.