After months of back and forth with the Erie County district attorney’s office, Stephen Shepherd pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree manslaughter for killing his wife in May.
Shepherd was found by police in Catskill State Park on May 21, the day after his wife Constance’s body was discovered by people moving into their former Town of Tonawanda home.
An Erie County medical examiner’s autopsy of Constance Shepherd revealed her cause of death to be a deep laceration to her neck, leading Town of Tonawanda police to rule the death a homicide. Police Chief Anthony Palombo said in May that the cut was caused by a “sword-sized knife.” The murder weapon was found in another room of the house at 16 Sunset Terrace.
Shepherd, who has been held without bail ever since his capture, had been facing second-degree murder charges for the crime. Given the violent nature of the killing, prosecutor Gary Hackbush said the reduced charge was offered to Shepherd only because the judge agreed to deliver a hefty 21-year prison term at sentencing.
The motivation behind the killing are still unclear, but the couple had lost their home to foreclosure weeks before the incident. The people who bought the couple’s home, which had been sold at auction on May 6, were the ones who found the crime scene and alerted police.
John Jordan, Shepherd’s lawyer, has maintained throughout the process that Shepherd was “despondent and remorseful” over the events, but didn’t go into further detail.
Shepherd is scheduled to appear for sentencing Nov. 23.