Mansfield pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter in wife's slaying; sentencing delayed

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Frank Mansfield

Phyllis Mansfield.jpg

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A 74-year-old Elizabeth City man has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife in 2016.

Frank Mansfield entered the guilty plea in the death of Phyllis Mansfield, 73, before Judge J.C. Cole in Pasquotank Superior Court on Wednesday, a prosecutor said Thursday evening.

Mansfield was not sentenced, however, because he’s currently undergoing treatment for a health condition, Chief Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Pellini said in an email. Cole instead continued the case for eight months — the length of time Mansfield’s doctors expect his chemotherapy to continue, Pellini said.

Mansfield is expected to be sentenced at the conclusion of the eight months, Pellini said.

Nazneen Ahmed, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Justice, said Friday the shortest possible sentence for someone convicted of voluntary manslaughter is three years and two months.

However, Ahmed emphasized sentencing is based on “points” assigned for a prior criminal record, aspects of the crime and whether or not the crime was committed while the defendant was on probation. Mansfield has no prior criminal record.  

According to court records, Mansfield called Central Communications the morning of Dec. 14, 2016, and reported shooting his wife at the couple’s home on Golf Club Drive in the Fairway Estates subdivision.

When police arrived, they found Mansfield standing in the driveway. His wife’s body was found in the garage.

Mansfield was taken into custody and initially held without bond.

According to a sworn statement by police Detective Zachary Lovett, Mansfield told police he had been talking with officials from the Pasquotank Department of Social Services, as well as other agencies, about possibly placing his wife in an assisted living facility.

A separate statement, filed with the court by police Detective Grace Bray, Mansfield told police his wife suffered from dementia.

Mansfield told police he had resisted placing his wife in the care of an assisted living facility.

“Mr. Mansfield stated he felt like if he put his wife into the assisted living home that she would be like a caged animal,” Lovett said in his statement.

However, the morning of Dec. 14, 2016, Mansfield told police he realized he couldn’t put off the decision any longer. Instead of admitting his wife to a facility, Mansfield told police he got a gun from a tool box in the garage and found bullets in a filing cabinet.

Mansfield said when his wife called for him to come back inside the house, he told her to come to the garage. Mansfield said he hid the gun from his wife’s view as she walked toward him. Once she got close, he told police he raised the gun to her chest and fired twice.

Phyllis Mansfield's death certificate, according to the Pasquotank Register of Deeds Office, cited wounds to her head and chest as the cause of her death.

According to court documents, Mansfield’s attorney, H.P. Williams Jr. of Elizabeth City, asked the court in mid-January 2017 to set a reasonable bond for his client, citing Mansfield’s absence of a prior criminal record and long work history and family ties in the community. Williams also told the court Mansfield’s two daughters would be willing to live with him if he was released from custody.

In January 2017, Mansfield was released from jail after a grand jury declined to indict him on a charge of first-degree murder. In March of that year, however, a second grand jury indicted Mansfield on a charge of second-degree murder. He was released after posting a $250,000 secured bond. 

The most recent court records list Mansfield’s address as the 400 block of Firetower Road in Pasquotank County.