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Pittsfield man guilty of murdering wife

  Criminal Law  -   POSTED: 2007/05/18 13:28

A Pittsfield man who stabbed his wife 58 times has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Seymour Townsend, 37, was convicted Thursday by a Berkshire Superior Court jury after 4½ hours of deliberations over two days. Townsend repeatedly stabbed Michelle Padgett Townsend, 27, in his Pittsfield apartment in the early hours of March 3, 2006, authorities said.

In a victim impact statement from Padgett Townsend’s mother, Donna Rinaldi, read by District Attorney David Capeless, the victim was described as a giving, loving woman who loved her four daughters. Townsend was the father of the youngest.

"There’s not a second that goes by that I don’t long for her," Rinaldi said. "She was my daughter, and she didn’t deserve to die like this, and I don’t deserve to live through my life like this.

Padgett Townsend’s sister, Brenda LeClair, said she remains bitter.

"Every day, I ask myself, ’Why didn’t he just walk away?’" she said. "I can never forgive him for this."

Padgett Townsend’s body was discovered three days after the stabbing covered in a white sheet and lying face down in the living room.

Pittsfield police and city firefighters had broken into the apartment after a Department of Social Services caseworker contacted them, worried because Padgett Townsend had missed a scheduled visit with her children that morning.

The state had removed the children from Padgett Townsend’s care. The couple was separated.

Townsend was apprehended in New York City three weeks after the slaying.

Defense attorney John Kaufman did not dispute that Townsend had killed his wife, but he claimed Townsend had "snapped" during an argument and was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Townsend’s wife attacked him with a kitchen knife, and he killed her in the "heat of passion," Kaufman claimed in court. Voluntary manslaughter carries a 20-year sentence.

But the prosecution argued that the slaying was premeditated and done with extreme atrocity or cruelty. Padgett Townsend had likely been near death when her husband inflicted the last 11 stab wounds, Capeless said.

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