Donald Southworth was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for manslaughter in the 2010 death of his wife, a significantly reduced charge and punishment after the state Supreme Court overturned an earlier murder conviction.
For Umi Southworth’s brutal killing, Donald Southworth, 53, entered an Alford plea in Fayette Circuit Court last month. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that there is enough evidence to convict. Southworth will be eligible for parole in about six years because of time already served.
He had been scheduled for a new trial after the Kentucky Supreme Court rejected the 2012 trial results. In 2014, the court overturned Southworth’s conviction because a piece of evidence, a used condom, was inadmissible. Southworth was initially sentenced to life in prison as recommended by the 2012 jury.
After Friday’s sentencing, Lou Anna Red Corn, Fayette first assistant commonwealth's attorney, said that rejected evidence was very important to the prosecution’s case. The prosecution also considered Almira, the daughter of Umi and Donald Southworth.
“With the loss of that evidence and the point where Almira was in her life, we determined the best outcome would be to do a plea, permit him to plead guilty to 15 years, and keep him in prison for as long as we possibly could,” Red Corn said.
Umi Southworth, 44, was found naked and severely beaten beneath a box spring in a brushy area behind her home on Meadowthorpe Avenue on June 9, 2010. A belt was wrapped around her neck.
Officers who responded thought she was dead and did not call for medical treatment. After officials with the coroner's office discovered three hours later that she was alive, Southworth was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. She died the next day.
The case resulted in policy changes requiring police to call medical personnel to the scenes of apparent homicides.
In March 2014, the Kentucky Supreme Court said prosecutors failed to prove that Southworth, a UPS truck driver, took a used condom from a neighbor's trash can and planted semen from it on Umi Southworth's body. That evidence was ruled inadmissible.
Reports at the time of her death said Umi Southworth, an employee of Fazoli's headquarters, had been preparing to divorce her husband and move to Nashville with the couple's daughter, Almira Fawn Southworth, who was a 12-year-old up-and-coming folk musician.
After Southworth's death, Almira went to Nashville to live with a couple who were friends of her mother and were involved in the music industry, according to testimony during the 2012 trial.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson said previously that Umi Southworth’s relatives were “very ecstatic” about not having to go through another trial.
Red Corn said she understands if people feel Southworth’s sentencing isn’t long enough. She said it’s not enough for the prosecution, either.
“It’s not enough for us, but based on what the Supreme Court did regarding the evidence we feel like this was a good outcome,” she said.