Man admits guilt in kidnapping, murder case

November 10, 2018


HUNTINGTON — A man was sentenced to serve three to 15 years in prison Monday after he admitted to his role in the Cabell County stabbing death of a man and beating of a kidnap victim late last year.

Robert Lee Nance, 39, entered a Kennedy plea Monday to malicious wounding and being an accessory after the fact for his participation in the death of Michael Sutphin and beating of alleged kidnapping victim Tara Gillespie in late December 2017.

He was sentenced by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell. A Kennedy plea allows a conviction without the defendant admitting guilt or explaining his or her role in a crime.

The deceased body of Sutphin was found the first week of January in the back of a van crashed along Barker Ridge Road north of Milton. Police believe he had died about Dec. 29, about a week prior to his body being located, Nance but no one had reported the crime for days until police located the wreckage.

Charged with his murder and concealment of a deceased human body is Brian Michael “Mikey” Bragg, 30, of Milton. Bragg is accused of stabbing Sutphin with a spear-like rod.

His co-defendants Nance, Cheryl D. Nance, 30, and Cynthia Renee Bumgarner, 45, were charged with kidnapping, malicious wounding and conspiracy as co-defendants. Robert Nance also was charged with concealment of a deceased human body and accessory after the fact.

Last week, assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham extended plea offers to both Robert Nance and Bumgarner in the case, offering them pleas to accessory after the fact to murder and malicious wounding. Prosecution recommended the sentences be served at the same time in return for cooperation in the murder case against Bragg.

Both defendants appeared in Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell’s courtroom Monday to discuss the offers. While Nance entered a plea, Bumgarner’s case was continued to a later date at the request of her attorney.

The case against the group started when a friend of the group came forward alleging she was asked to help dispose of Sutphin’s body. Police later found the wreckage along Barker Ridge Road. Bragg had allegedly attempted to speak to police prior to the wreckage being found, but was turned away after police suspected he was intoxicated.

Bragg allegedly stabbed Sutphin after he allegedly beat Bragg’s brother for attacking Gillispie, who was allegedly kidnapped after Sutphin’s death. Sutphin’s body was placed into a van, which was later taken to Barker Ridge Road, where the wreck was staged.

Gillispie testified the group of defendants took her hostage at Bragg’s home, later moving to the Nances’ home, where she was allegedly severely beaten. She said she remembered going into a bedroom of the Nances’ home and passing out before waking up on a shower curtain with the Nances, Bumgarner and Duncan standing over her, yelling and beating her.

Gillispie said she remembered Robert Nance hitting her with a gun and Bumgarner putting out lit cigarettes on her face. As a group, all defendants had participated in beating her in general, she said. One defendant cut her leg, she told police.

All defendants except for Cheryl Nance are jailed in West Virginia correctional facilities.

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

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