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Independence woman gets eight-year sentence for killing husband with hammer

Updated: 2014-01-10T05:26:07Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

An Independence woman on Thursday received a eight-year sentence for killing her husband in 2010 with a hammer.

Catherine Ashworth did not speak in court before or after Jackson County Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Garrett III imposed the sentence.

The victim’s son, Ronnie Ashworth Jr., said the time in prison may give his father’s killer time to reflect.

“You have taken a son, brother, father, grandfather and friend,” he testified before the judge announced the sentence. “Although I wish you no ill will, I hope the next 10 years give you the time to realize what you have taken from the world.”

Outside the courtroom later, he said: “I guess that will be the next eight years. … I’m just glad it’s over.”

Catherine Ashworth pleaded guilty in November to manslaughter, admitting that she beat her husband to death in 2010 after they argued about infidelity.

She and Ronnie Ashworth Sr. had argued at the Eagles Club in Independence the evening of Aug. 20, 2010, after she had accused another woman of having an affair with her husband, according to court records.

Two days later, Catherine Ashworth called an area funeral home and said, “My husband is dead and I need you to pick him up,” according to court records.

Emergency workers found Ronnie Ashworth, 64, dead on the garage floor of their home in the 18500 block of Blackhawk Trail. Elsewhere they found blood and evidence that someone had tried to clean up the blood, possibly with bleach, court records said.

Though Catherine Ashworth had told a police dispatcher that her husband had fallen in the basement after drinking, a medical examiner ruled that he had died of “blunt force injuries to the head and neck” and that his death was a homicide.

Prosecutors charged Catherine Ashworth with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in August 2011. In exchange for her guilty plea in November, prosecutors agreed to reduce the murder charge to manslaughter and dismiss the armed criminal action charge.

They also agreed to a maximum 10-year sentence.

Catherine Ashworth hadn’t planned on killing her husband, defense attorney Jake Jacoby said Thursday in the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence. There was a gun elsewhere in the house, but she didn’t go and find it, he said.

But after her husband arrived home several hours after she did, she challenged her husband about his “philandering,” Jacoby said.

“She confronted him in the garage,” Jacoby said. Her husband then approached her “in a drunken stupor,” Jacoby said, “and she protected herself. In the garage, she just picked up whatever was available.”

Michael Hunt of the Jackson County prosecutor’s office said Catherine Ashworth “took a hammer and beat this man to death, and then just let him lie there.”

That represented, he added, “a horrible way for someone’s life to end.”

The Star’s Mark Morris contributed to this report. To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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