Ky. woman convicted in slayings of her parents and brother found dead in jail cell

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 13, 2014 

Margaret Anne Wellnitz Appleton

A woman who admitted plotting to kill her parents and brother in one of Adair County's most notorious murders was found dead in her jail cell Wednesday.

The death of Meg Wellnitz Appleton is being investigated as a suicide, said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

Appleton was being held at the state's prison for female offenders at Pewee Valley. Staff members found her about 7 a.m. Wednesday.

The Department of Corrections did not release details about the method of her death. State police are investigating.

Appleton pleaded guilty in 2005 in the murders of her adoptive parents, Joseph and Beth Wellnitz, and her brother Dennis Wellnitz.

Joseph Wellnitz, 50, was a well-known veterinarian; his wife, who was 40, helped in the clinic. Dennis Wellnitz, 20, was attending college.

An accomplice, William Harry Meece, was convicted of sneaking into the Wellnitz's home outside Columbia and shooting all three victims more than once, reloading to finish off Dennis Wellnitz.

The murders happened in February 1993. State police doggedly pursued the case for a decade, finally getting a break when Meece's ex-wife agreed to provide information.

Money was the motive in the crime. Appleton got $300,000 in insurance after her parents were killed, and Meece expected to get a share, the prosecutor said.

Meece had worked as a cab driver and landscaper in Lexington and had attended the University of Kentucky, where he and Appleton met.

Appleton was serving a sentence of at least 25 years without parole.

Meece claimed he had nothing to do with the killings. A jury convicted him in less than two hours, however, and the judge sent him to Death Row.

He continues to fight the conviction and sentence.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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