Bass Webb pleads guilty to murder for killing his estranged girlfriend

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 18, 2012 

Bass Webb pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday in the 2009 death of his estranged girlfriend, Bryia Runiewicz.

The plea came on the day that jury selection was to begin in his trial in Pendleton County. The case was moved there after a jury could not be seated last year in Harrison County because of pretrial publicity.

Runiewicz, 31, was found dead in her home in Harrison County on July 31, 2009. Had Webb, 32, been convicted by a jury, he could have faced the death penalty.

But under a plea agreement, the recommended sentence for Webb will be 50 years, public defender Tom Griffiths said.

"We think this was the best thing for Bass's family, certainly for his mom and dad, who had been subpoenaed as witnesses, as well as Bryia's family, who were going through a terrible ordeal," Griffiths said Wednesday. "This allows both families to move on. It's been difficult for everyone."

Griffiths said there was concern about putting Runiewicz's two daughters from a previous relationship on the witness stand.

Webb "didn't want to do that," Griffiths said. "He did a lot of soul-searching and reached a decision yesterday. And we contacted the prosecution and had repeated phone calls and discussions. In any case as serious as this, we fully explore any possibility of a negotiated settlement."

Webb also is accused of murder in the death of Sabrina Marie Vaughn in Montgomery County, whose skeletal remains were found in January 2010, seven years after she had gone missing. That trial is scheduled for April 2013.

And there has been no disposition of the case in which Webb spat in the face of Bourbon District Judge Vanessa Dickson during a hearing in August 2009.

Webb has a criminal history dating to 2000, when he was sentenced in Menifee County to one year in prison for attempting to elude a police officer and five counts of wanton endangerment.

Last year, he was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder for trying to run over a pretrial officer and a deputy sheriff outside the Bourbon County jail in 2009. He received a 50-year sentence in that case.

Pendleton Circuit Judge Jay Delaney scheduled sentencing in the Runiewicz case for Aug. 15 in Falmouth.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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