A Lexington woman accused of hitting a man in the head with a brick, ultimately killing him, pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of assault after witnesses offered conflicting opinions about whether the brick contributed to his death.
Prosecutors recommended that Melissa Mondelli serve six years in prison for the assault of Thomas E. Reynolds, 76, two years ago at an East High Street apartment.
Mondelli, 30, originally was charged with assault in January 2009. Five months later, Reynolds died from blunt-force trauma injuries, according to police reports. Mondelli's case was presented to a grand jury again, and she was re-indicted in November 2009 on a charge of second-degree manslaughter.
Her trial had been set to begin Monday, but Mondelli pleaded guilty to second-degree assault before a jury was selected.
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Mondelli's attorney, public defender Bonnie Potter, said it would have been hard for prosecutors to convince a jury that Reynolds died of injuries from the brick attack.
The defense's witnesses included a neurologist, who "would have testified that Mr. Reynolds had some pre-existing medical conditions," including brain apathy brought on by a stroke, Potter said.
The brick caused a cut and a concussion, Potter said, but doctors said Reynolds had recovered from those injuries within two months.
Potter also said she thinks a drug Reynolds was given at a nursing home caused pneumonia, which could have contributed to his death.
The brick incident began when Reynolds called police to his apartment on East High Street and said Mondelli was trying to break in. When officers arrived, Mondelli was gone, but they found Reynolds "with a serious head wound and a brick next to him," according to documents filed in Fayette Circuit Court.
In court Monday, Mondelli admitted to Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone that she threw the brick through a window, and it hit Reynolds. She said she was high on crack cocaine at the time.
Scorsone asked Mondelli how she knew Reynolds.
"He was a good friend. Also, we had a relationship," she said. "We had a sexual relationship."
Reynolds was a retired University of Kentucky English professor who did volunteer tutoring, according to Sharon Reynolds, his ex-wife. Sharon Reynolds said her ex-husband met Mondelli while helping her study for her GED.
Penalties for second-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter are in the same range. Both are class C felonies with a penalty range of five to 10 years in prison.