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Sex offender pleads guilty in ’09 death

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By Damon Lawrence

Lonnie Lee White was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of  Misty Dawn Wilmeth.

White, a convicted sex offender, was indicted for second-degree murder in June 2009.

He reached a deal with prosecutors and pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter on Friday in Roane County Criminal Court.

“We didn’t think it qualified as voluntary manslaughter,” defense attorney Robert L. Vogel said. “This was either an accident, or it should have been a reckless at best. But it’s also difficult when someone dies. You don’t want to belittle that, either.”

White killed Wilmeth, 28, on March 10, 2009 at his home on Kerns Lane. He told an investigator the two were engaged in kinky sex, and he complied with Wilmeth’s request to be choked.

“Lonnie stated that she told him to try something she saw on CSI Miami,” the investigator wrote in the arrest warrant. “Lonnie stated that she then told him to put his hands around her neck. Lonnie stated that he did and she said ‘harder, harder.’”

Getting a conviction on second-degree murder could have proved difficult for the state.    

“It’s been well documented in the press the defense that the defendant and his attorney expected to raise,” District Attorney General Russell Johnson said. “We discussed that with the family. There are certain pieces of evidence and things that compromise the state’s ability perhaps to get a conviction on the indicted offense.”

Johnson said the plea deal was approved by Wilmeth’s family.

“The victim’s family has asked us to enter into and put together this plea agreement and they are in agreement with the plea,” Johnson said.

Family members of the victim who were in court on Friday said they wanted the matter over with so they could move on.

Vogel said White will have to serve 35 percent of his prison sentence before he is eligible for parole.        

“He could have to serve 85 percent before they let him go,” Vogel said. “It will be up to the parole board.”

White, 48, has been in jail since he killed Wilmeth. He was given credit for time already served.

White also faced charges for TennCare fraud and selling a controlled substance. The state agreed to drop those charges as part of the plea deal.

White is on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry.

According to the registry, he was convicted of sexual battery in 1992.