UPDATE: Melissa McAtee receives maximum sentence for her role in a Harrison County Shooting

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV) --
A Lumberport woman convicted in the shooting death of her long-time partner received her sentence.

According to the Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Melissa McAtee was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday.

Back in March, a jury found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2018 shooting death of 36-year-old David Cottrill.

McAtee was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the WV Crime Victims Fund for funeral expenses that they paid on behalf of the victim's family.



UPDATE 3/29/19 7:27PM
The jury in the Melissa McAtee murder trial has found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of David Cottrill.

On Friday, the last two witnesses were called to take the stand for the defense.

The first witness, a forensic firearm examiner, said the gun is functional as designed. Through various tests, he found the gun hadn't been modified in any way. When asked, by the defense, if accidental shootings and unintentional shootings occur he said yes.

The second witness, who was in the trailer the night of the shooting, explained that Cottrill and McAtee argued a lot. Fights that often turned physical.

A few days after the shooting, video tape evidence proved to the jury that McAtee yelled, "(expletive) you Dave," right before the shot went off.

In stage four of the trial, both the prosecution and defense geared up for closing arguments.

The prosecution asked the jury, again, what they think Mcafee's intent was. Prosecuting attorney, Rachel Romano stated that McAtee had the opportunity to leave the house when she felt threatened or throw the gun outside.

Romano, said instead she walked toward where Cottrill was in the trailer, with the gun, and shot him.

Romano told the jury McAtee is putting on a show and that she lied in her testimony. Romano said, yet again, that McAtee didn't have blood anywhere on her hands or shirt when she said she held Cottrill as he bled to death.

In Mcafee's testimony she explained that Cottrill held a knife to her throat that evening. Romano said out of all of the witnesses no one mentioned anything like this happening. She said, "It was deliberate." "It was premeditated."

The defense reminded the jury to keep an open mind in the beginning of her closing arguments. Defense attorney, Susan Morris said in Cottrill's mother's testimony, she said things out of anger toward McAtee, not because it was what truly happened.

She also explained that one of the witness's testimony was a "scripted timeline" of the events leading up to the shooting.

Morris took the jury back to the 911 call they heard a few days prior. In the 911 call Morris repeats that McAtee was heard in the background saying, "Don't let him die." "I didn't know it was loaded."

Morris spoke about battered spouse syndrome again. She said McAtee experienced a cycle of abuse for years, but according to several witnesses she never defended herself.

The defense explained that the trigger was pulled when McAtee got scared on her way to hide the gun from Cottrill. "She was thinking how do I protect myself, not how am I going to kill Dave."

The prosecution took the floor for their final word stating that premeditation can occur in "a blink of an eye." Romano said premeditation was proved when McAtee went and got the gun, brought it down the hallway, said "(expletive) you" and pulled the trigger.

After about a four hour deliberation, the jury found McAtee guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

UPDATE 3/29/19 3:45PM
The jury is deliberating after over four days of the Melissa McAtee murder trial.

McAtee is charged in the shooting death of David Cottrill in Harrison County last year.

Stay with 5 news for the latest.

UPDATE 3/28/19
Day four of the trial began Thursday morning with the last witness called in by the prosecution.

The defense called their first witness of the day to take the stand. Lt. Robert Waybright, a detective with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.

He stated that he was responsible for the evidence in the case. He said he submitted the gun McAtee used for fingerprint testing and not DNA testing. Saying he didn't think DNA would have been feasible. He then showed the jury the rifle, magazine and cartridge used that night.

Two more witnesses, for the defense, took the stand. One woman is McAtee's cousin, who said McAtee and Cottrill fought a lot. She said on several occasions she heard Cottrill call McAtee names, such as a "fat (expletive)."

She also said Melissa had various physical injuries, like bruises, a fat lip and marks on her a lot of the time. She said she was often concerned for her well-being.

An executive director for Hope, Inc. in Fairmont. A task force on domestic violence. She said, in her records, Melissa stayed at the shelter twice. One time, for five days.

A few others testified for the defense.

A nervous and distraught, Melissa McAtee, later took the stand for an intense cross-examination.

Throughout questioning, McAtee stated that for nearly 10 years she was physically and verbally abused by David. However, no matter how bad the arguments got she said she always went back to him. Saying, "he was the only man I ever loved."

She told the jury he hit her a lot, threw objects at her, kicked her and pushed her into walls and windows, among many other things. When the defense asked how often this happened, she said, "once a day or every other day."

On multiple occasions, the defense asked why she wouldn't call 911 when arguments escalated. She said, "he'd kill me."

While on a trip to Akron, Ohio on January 10, 2018, just one day before the shooting, McAtee said Cottrill was very mad and hit her several times during the drive. In an attempt to get away she locked herself in a gas station restroom when they made a stop.

She said she had to get back to West Virginia to be with the kids after calling her Aunt for help and staying a night with her in Cleveland, away from Cottrill. After the two made up they took a much more calm trip back to Lumberport.

According to McAtee, as they drove up the driveway, of the trailer home, things took a turn and McAtee said Cottrill became very angry again.

While inside the trailer, McAtee said he threatened to kill her by putting a knife up to her throat. McAtee said since he was so enraged, she felt the need to get the gun and hide it from him.

When she got the gun out of the cabinet, she said she removed the clip and stated "there's nothing in it." In an attempt to run and hide it, she said Cottrill appeared in the hallway, scaring her, and that's when the gun was fired.

When she ran away, in fear of what he was going to do, she didn't think he had been hit. That was when she ran into Cottrill's mother who came to see what was going on.

In a panic, Cottrill's mother screamed that he was shot and McAtee ran over to assist aid. McAtee testified that she held Cottrill as he bled all over her hands while he took his last few breaths.

While she was crying she told the jury, "I didn't know there was anything in it [the gun]. It was an accident."

With no further questions from Defense Attorney, Susan Morris, Prosecutor, Rachel Romano took the floor.

She said everything McAtee said was different from the witnesses who testified just days prior.

Taking note that when McAtee said she picked up a shovel and hit a wooden stove with it, after the shot was fired, that others who were in the trailer that night didn't say anything about that.

Also asking McAtee if she threw the shovel down on the ground, like she said in her testimony, than why does the pictured evidence of the shovel show things laying on top of it.

Romano also showed body cam footage, taken by a Harrison County Deputy, asking McAtee to point out where on her clothing or hands there was blood. This was because she testified that she held Cottrill as he bled.

McAtee wasn't able to answer, but later said they used towels to stop the bleeding when Morris asked another question.

The defense also asked McAtee if she had ever tried to commit suicide. She said yes, one time. She said she tried to take a bottle of pills.

While both the prosecution and defense were done with questioning for the day, it is still evident that Morris stands by her client having battered spouse syndrome and finally had enough. The jury is left to decide what kind of intent McAtee had that night.

The defense is expected to have a few more witnesses testify on Friday.

UPDATE 3/27/19
The defense got the chance to call its first witness Wednesday on day three of the trial for Harrison County woman, Melissa McAtee, who was also heard on police body camera footage played for the jury crying and asking first responders to save her boyfriend, who she is on trial for in his shooting death.

Several witnesses testified in the morning who were at the trailer home in Lumberport on the January 2018 night in which the incident occurred on behalf of the state.

"It will never get out of my head," one witness told the jury. "I saw her pull the trigger."

The question for the jury to decide in this trial is the intent of McAtee, who both sides seem to agree shot and killed her boyfriend David Cottrill.

One of the defense's key arguments came to the forefront Wednesday afternoon with a psychologist, Dr. William J. Fremouw.

He was asked by the defense to evaluate McAtee for battered woman syndrome, also known as battered spouse syndrome.

He told the jury in his expert opinion, he believed McAtee did have battered spouse syndrome. He interviewed her three times, he told the jury, which included two psychological tests.

He determined that she had high levels of anxiety, depression and trauma. He evaluated her nearly four months after she was arrested for the murder.

"She meets all the elements that are there based on what I had to review," he told the jury.

He looked at the criminal complaint, women's shelter and medical records, the application for a protective order from relatives who did not include Cottrill, transcripts of witness interviews, Facebook messages and autopsy reports.

He noted an escalating cycle of violence and detailed several events where McAtee told him she was physically abused by Cottrill. The judge told the jury that they should only consider those facts on the basis that they helped Fremouw draw his conclusion, and those individual events were not being admitted into evidence.

"Anything mentioned isn't evidence," Harrison County Circuit Judge Christopher McCarthy told the jury. "He's just there as an expert."

Fremouw said he typically asks victims of abuse what their first, typical, worst and last episodes of abuse were in a relationship. He detailed the examples McAtee provided him, which included a trip to Ohio the day before the shooting in which McAtee told him she hid in a bathroom of a fast food restaurant trying to hide from Cottrill as she feared for her life.

Fremouw told the jury McAtee told him that she went back to her Harrison County residence with him the next day because of her kids, despite the aforementioned incident.

He said returning to a relationship or situation like this, even though it may be abusive or toxic, is a main symptom of battered spouse syndrome.

He told the jury that she said during his evaluations that Cottrill threatened her with a knife on the day of the shooting. She told the psychologist that she was worried Cottrill would use the gun, which is why she took the clip out and set it aside.

The defense contends that McAtee did not know there was still a bullet in the gun when it went off and that it was an accidental discharge.

Fremouw told the jury she was not ready to leave the relationship and abandon her children, despite the alleged abuses.

The prosecution presented to Fremouw McAtee's application for a protective order against Cottrill. She told Fremouw that she never had a protective order against her longtime boyfriend, which Harrison County Prosecutor Rachel Romano characterized as a lie told to the psychologist by McAtee.

The jury on Wednesday also saw the body cam footage recorded by a Harrison County Deputy who responded and detained McAtee on that January 2018 night.

The footage began when the deputy was arriving at the scene and ended nearly an hour later when she was transported to the hospital for a medical evaluation.

As authorities arrived, McAtee can be heard on body camera footage screaming, "I'm sorry...I didn't know anything was in it...I didn't know the gun was loaded. I took the clip out."

She also was heard telling deputies, "Give him CPR. He's not breathing. Why is nobody helping him? He's lying there dying."

Deputies in the video responded, "We're not medical professionals man. We're letting EMS handle that."

The deputy testified that Cottrill was dead when they arrived.

She repeatedly was heard on the footage played for the jury, "Please don't let him die. Please help him. I'm sorry."

She kept her head down as much of the video was played in court.

Several of the prosecution's witnesses have testified that before 911 was called, she seemed happy that Cottrill was dead.

The jury also heard Wednesday from a man who taught McAtee in a hunting safety class when she was in high school.

The trial continues Thursday with the final witnesses from the prosecution. The defense has witnesses scheduled for Friday.

UPDATE 3/26/19
Both sides in court seem to agree that Melissa McAtee fatally shot her longtime partner, 36-year-old David Cottrill.

What led up to the incident is the subject of a trial underway in Harrison County this week.

McAtee appeared in court for day two of her trial Tuesday.

David Smith, a longtime friend of McAtee and Cottrill, was questioned for more than an hour about the events that led up to the shooting. He was at the trailer home in Lumberport when it occurred.

Smith described the relationship of McAtee and Cottrill as largely dysfunctional with constant verbal arguments.

Questions arose in court over the frequency of those arguments turning physical. Smith said their fights only ever escalated to “light head flicking.” He said during the heat of their arguments, the two sometimes threatened to kill each other.

He told the jury he was visiting McAtee and Cottrill’s trailer home with his girlfriend.

He said McAtee whispered in his ear that night a threatening him or Cottrill, though he couldn't remember specifically.

Smith said most of the night leading up to the shooting was calm in the trailer until Cottrill said something that upset McAtee. Then, he said he heard the wind from the bullet whizz by his head after it had gone through Cottrill's stomach.

“I’m still haunted by this,” Smith said. “I still have nightmares about this.”

As Cottrill was taking his last breaths in the hallway, Smith testified, he said his best friend told him, "Dave, the (expletive) killed me. Run."

He and his girlfriend took off into the woods and weren't immediately questioned by police.

“We has to leave the trailer,” Smith told the jury. “She was going to kill me.”

The defense asked Smith why it took around five weeks for police to question him and why he didn't immediately call the authorities to give his account of the evening. He said he thought the police knew everything they needed to and didn’t see a point in going back to the scene that night or reaching out to authorities.

The defense also pressed Smith on his prior drug use with heroin and meth, often times with Cottrill. Smith is currently in prison on unrelated charges.

The jury returned from a lunch break to listen to the 911 call made by Cottrill's mother, Dee Cottrill, who was also at the trailer when the shooting happened.

Yelling can be heard in the background of the frantic 911 call. The dispatcher repeatedly asked Dee Cottrill where the gun was in the home and if David was still breathing.

Dee Cottrill could be heard on the 911 call yelling at McAtee, "You killed the son of a (expletive). You're going down (expletive). Hw could you shoot him?"

After listening to the 911 call, jurors heard from Dee Cottrill herself, as the state called her to the stand.

She offered a similar description of a dysfunctional relationship with constant arguing from both sides. She also noted one incident in which David hit McAtee in the face. It was the only physical altercation she described, though she said verbal arguments with harsh language were frequent.

Dee Cottrill told the jury she saw McAtee pick up the gun, which she had passed on to her son, and claimed she said, "There's one in there," referring to a bullet.

The defense questioned whether or not she was positive she heard "one" or "none," as she said she did not actually see her load the firearm.

Dee said she heard McAtee yell, "(Expletive) you, Dave," followed later by the single gunshot.

The defense asked her why she didn't react to McAtee picking up the gun or yelling at Dave. She said it the yelling wasn't out of the ordinary and she saw McAtee move the gun to clean before.

She told the jury it took her a moment to gain her composure to call 911.

“I couldn’t even think straight,” she said. “I was terrified. I was in a panick.”

In that time, she described a "kill" look on McAtee. Smith separately described McAtee as having "a serial killer look" after the shooting and feared that she was going to kill him next. He said the only thing that stopped her was the gun jamming.

Dee Cottrill testified that after she got on the phone with 911, McAtee began apologizing to David Cottrill, saying the shooting was an accident and she didn't mean to kill him. Dee also said McAtee then began trying to help him.

Smith and Dee Cottrill testified that they suggested the couple break up multiple times because of their frequent arguments.

Later in the day, the defense questioned the evidence gathering and scene processing of detectives at the end of the afternoon, calling into question exact measurements taken at the scene.

The jury also heard from a forensic expert who examined the weapon used who explained why there were no fingerprints lifted from the gun.

UPDATE 3/25/19
Day one of the murder trial for Melissa McAtee began today with a jury selection and opening statements.

McAtee is charged in the shooting death of David Cottrill last year in Harrison County.

The trial is scheduled to last throughout the week. Stay with 5 News for the latest trial updates.

UPDATE 3/20/19
The trial for a woman accused in the homicide of her partner has been set for Monday.

Melissa McAtee was charged in the shooting death of David Cottrill last year in Harrison County.

The trial was originally set for December 5th, but was postponed to allow for a behavioral health exam to be conducted.

Stay with 5 News for the latest.

UPDATE 11/28/18
34-year-old Melissa McAtee of Harrison County, who is accused of her partner’s homicide, has had her trial postponed to March. Her original trial was set for December 5th.

The trial has been pushed back to give the state time to conduct their own behavioral health exam, said Harrison County Prosecutor Rachel Romano.

This examination request comes after a Morgantown psychologist examined McAtee and found a mental health condition that could affect an element of the murder charge.

McAtee is accused of the shooting death of David Cottrill, her partner of 16 years. She was indicted on a murder charge in May.

She remains in jail, and her pretrial conferences are set for Feb. 25 at 10:00 a.m. and March 4th at 12:30 p.m.

Stay with 5 News for the latest.

ORIGINAL STORY 5/9/18
A Lumberport woman has been indicted for murder.

On Wednesday, the Harrison County Grand Jury returned indictments for May 2018 term. Among the names is 34-year-old Melissa Anne McAtee, who has been charged shooting and killing 36-year-old David Cottrill at a home on Cottrill Lane in Lumberport this past January.

79 others were also indicted in the county for various crimes. You can find the full list of indictments by clicking on the Related Document (to the right on desktop, below on mobile).