Written by Roberta Anderson
Michael J. O'Hare was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter Friday night in the May 23 stabbing death of his 56-year-old mother-in-law, Susan Smith Khoshpasand. The jury recommended a sentence of 10 years.
O'Hare, who was tried in Buena Vista Circuit Court, had been charged with first-degree murder.
The verdict came after two days of testimony. O’Hare took the stand on Friday as the defense’s only witness in the case and recounted his recollections to the jury about the events on the day last spring that resulted in his stabbing of Khoshpasand.
O’Hare, who testified that he had met his wife, Nessa O’Hare, through the Internet, recounted the years of domestic tension in the household between him and Khoshpasand as well as between Khoshpasand and her daughter, Nessa O’Hare. O’Hare’s family had resided with Khoshpasand for the past 1 ½ years because of financial difficulties.
During closing arguments, Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Russell asked the jury to return a verdict of first-degree murder, saying O’Hare’s attack had been willful, deliberate and premeditated. The murder of his mother-in-law was “something that he had in his mind for a long time,” Russell said. He pointed to the 28 stab wounds found on Khoshpasand as indication that O’Hare had acted in a deliberate manner.
O’Hare’s attorney, Peter Boatner, drew a different conclusion. He called the events of May 23 a “tragedy for everyone involved,” but argued that the only just verdict was for voluntary manslaughter. “Michael had nothing to gain from wanting Susan dead,” Boatner said. O’Hare’s actions were the result of his state of mind as provoked by the long-time unhealthy dynamics of the domestic situation, Boatner said.
O'Hare was also found not guilty of a charge of maliciously wounding his wife, Nessa O'Hare. The Buena Vista Circuit Court jury deliberated for more than four hours before returning its verdicts.
The recommendation of 10 years is the maximum sentence O'Hare, 34, could receive for a conviction of voluntary manslaughter.
The two-day trial didn't end until 9 p.m. Friday. Judge Michael Irvine will formally sentence O'Hare later after receiving a pre-sentence report.
Further details about the trial will be available in next Wednesday's edition of The News-Gazette.
Editor's note: Staff writer Ed Smith contributed to this story.