Wife of Murder Suspect Agrees to Testify Against Him

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Wed, Dec 4, 2013 5:37 am

A Glouster woman charged in connection with a murder case has accepted a plea deal which would include testifying against her husband.

Rhonda Degarmore, 37, appeared in Athens County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, agreeing to a total sentence of nearly five years in prison. She pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft, receiving stolen property and obstructing justice.

Degarmore was implicated in the case of Paul E. Roberts, who was found dead under the porch of his Locust Street home in Glouster. She was not charged with his murder.

Roberts’ son, Paul J. Roberts, is charged with aggravated murder in the case, along with a separate murder charge and other charges in connection with the death of his father. He was indicted on the charges on Oct. 28, and could face the death penalty if investigators can collect enough evidence, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said in an earlier Messenger article.

Degarmore’s brother, Robert, is also charged in connection with the case. He has appeared in court on theft charges for allegedly using the elder Roberts’ debit card without permission. He remains incarcerated on the charges and unrelated charges.

Rhonda Degarmore agreed to testify against the younger Roberts, and in return, the state recommended a total of two years and 11 months on the three charges she faced in connection with the murder case.

There is a judicial rule referred to as “spousal privilege” which can exempt a spouse from having to testify against the other, but Blackburn said there are exceptions to that rule. He would not elaborate because it would delve into details of the case, but said an exception might apply in this case.

Unless forensic evidence is found that connects her to the death or to moving the body of Paul E. Roberts, Rhonda Degarmore will not be charged with another crime relating to the murder case, Assistant County Prosecutor Meg Saunders told the court on Tuesday.

The woman was accused of using Paul E. Roberts’ debit card without permission, along with lying to investigators about the location of the body. She eventually led them to the location, Blackburn said in early statements to the media.

For Rhonda Degarmore’s first two counts, receiving stolen property and theft, she received one sentence (11 months) because they are considered “allied offenses,” defense attorney Herman Carson said. Allied offenses can be argued when two charges are issued for the same event or with the same intent.

“Counts one and two are premised on a single credit or debit card,” Carson said during Tuesday’s hearing, adding that he believed there were “sufficient facts” that would lead to a guilty verdict.

Sentencing was also conducted during the Tuesday court appearance, and Judge L. Alan Goldsberry accepted the prosecution’s recommended sentence.

Rhonda Degarmore will serve her sentence consecutive to a sentence of two years on a 2011 theft case. In that case, she was released on community control, but based on probation violations, Goldsberry issued the sentence she would have received had she not been placed on community control.

The violations not only included the charges brought against her in the murder case, but also admissions of using heroin, marijuana and Xanax while on community control.

“This is a situation that is rooted very deeply in a serious addiction,” Carson told the court during sentencing.

He said the sentence “squarely fits within the purpose of sentencing” and also addresses her need for treatment of her addictions.

The prosecution said, according to the agreement, that they would not oppose application for judicial release after two years if Rhonda Degarmore received a favorable report from the warden.

The woman received 44 days credit for time served, and would also be credited for any time spent at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail before she is transported to serve her prison time.

 

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