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Woman admits role in 2017 Cabell murder case

December 4, 2018

HUNTINGTON - An Ona woman was convicted Monday in Cabell Circuit Court of attempting to help her boyfriend cover up a murder last year and injuring a kidnapped woman in the process.

Cynthia Renee Bumgarner, 46, pleaded guilty Monday to being an accessory to murder and entered a Kennedy plea to malicious wounding in the death of Michael Sutphin and the beating of kidnapping victim Tara Gillispie over a period of days in late December 2017. A Kennedy plea allows a conviction without the defendant admitting guilt or explaining his or her role in a crime.

Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell sentenced her to a seven- to 10-year prison sentence. Her sentence could be reduced to be from anywhere from two to 10 years at a reconsideration hearing in January 2019.

Sutphin died around Dec. 29 and was found days after his death in the back of a van, which was later determined to be intentionally crashed, along Barker Ridge Road north of Milton. Brian Michael “Mikey” Bragg, 30, of Milton, was charged with murder and accused of stabbing Sutphin with a spear-like rod. His girlfriend, Gillispie, was later taken hostage by the group in an effort to conceal the crime.

Gillispie was beaten, burned and threatened by the group in an attempt to get her to remain silent about the slaying, assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham said.

Bumgarner had not witnessed Sutphin’s death and discovered the criminal activity had taken place when her co-defendants came to her with Sutphin’s body in the van, according to defense attorney Steve Cook. At that point, on Jan. 1, 2018, she said she tried to help cover up the death by asking a friend and to help dispose of the body.

“We were high on meth that night,” she said. “She instructed me to go back to my car and go home and that is what I did, your honor. A little bit later the police showed up.”

When the friend could not help, Bragg and co-defendant Robert Lee Nance, 39, instead had taken the van to Barker Ridge Road, where the crash was staged and found days later.

She said she believes that friend is who called police and tipped police off about the crime because officers knew Bumgarner’s name.

Bumgarner denied being addicted to drugs at the time of the killing and said she had just started experimenting with drugs after meeting Bragg, whom she was dating at the time the crime occurred.

Nance, 39, entered a Kennedy plea in November to malicious wounding and being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to serve a three- to 15-year prison sentence. His wife, Cheryl D. Nance, entered a deferred adjudication and all charges will be dropped if she is able to stay out of trouble until May 14.

The case against Bragg is still pending.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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