TEMPERANCE, Mich. — A Monroe County jury on Thursday found a 45-year-old man guilty of the murder and beheading of a 79-year-old Temperance woman in February 2020.
After three days of testimony, a jury deliberated for about two hours before finding Kenny Wayne McBride, 45, guilty of murder in the first degree and mutilation of her corpse.
McBride also was charged as a habitual offender - fourth offense because of three prior felony convictions. Trial on these charges began on June 7
EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT TRIAL
According to evidence presented during the trial, Gibson had been residing with her son, Kenneth Reece (the defendant’s father), in his Temperance home. She had been helping to care for her daughter (Kenneth’s wife), who had recently died of cancer.
McBride, who had been estranged from his father for many years, had started staying at his father’s home about six weeks earlier. Reece last saw his mother alive on the afternoon of Feb. 16, when he left for work at around 1:30 p.m.
When Reece returned home from work at 3 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 17, he entered his home and found a body and significant amounts of blood in his darkened living room. Not yet realizing the body was his mother, Reece called 911 for assistance.
McBride was the only other person in the home, and he claimed no knowledge of the struggle or the body. When deputies from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrived, they discovered the dismembered body of Cecilia Gibson and clear signs of a violent, bloody struggle. Gibson’s head had been removed from her body and tossed outside the home.
It appears that an argument developed between Gibson and McBride regarding McBride’s children - all but one of whom McBride had ignored for years, according to trial testimony.
The evidence further showed that McBride became enraged and viciously beat Gibson to death using a ceramic piggy bank and a metal child-gate. Having been struck a minimum of 19 separate times, Gibson suffered massive head trauma.
After she was dead, McBride used three different knives to cut off Gibson’s head, according to evidence presented at trial. He then carried her head through the house, opened a rear door and tossed the head into the yard. It came to rest near where Reece parked when he arrived home from work –although he did not notice it.
In addition to the knives, McBride’s bloody jeans, and other evidence, investigators also found cut-up photographs of all of McBride’s children except one – the one child with whom McBride maintained a relationship.
DNA, cell phone records and fingerprint evidence helped link Kenny McBride to the crime. McBride had injuries to his hands and head that reflected a physical struggle.
The jury rejected McBride’s claim that he sustained the injuries while working on his car – in the driveway, in February, without gloves –perhaps because they knew that, earlier in that day, McBride had paid a local auto parts store to replace his car battery.
DEFENDANT'S CLAIMS; PROSECUTION'S ARGUMENTS
During his testimony, McBride claimed Gibson was likely killed and mutilated by someone to whom McBride owed money. He refused to tell the jury the name of the person because he claimed he feared for himself and his family.
During closing arguments, however, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison Arnold debunked that claim. She pointed out that McBride showed no signs of fear when investigators arrived on scene or at any time afterward, and that he had never (before trial) mentioned that Gibson might have been killed for that reason.
She further argued that a stranger would not have entered the house with four cars in the driveway, would not have had to beat Gibson to death with a piggy bank and a baby gate, would not have decapitated her, would not have left behind their pants (as defendant proposed), would not have taken time to cut-up family photographs or take a shower(with McBride in a nearby bedroom), and would not have stolen and kept with them a non-descript medical GPS tracking device (as defendant proposed).
SENTENCING SET FOR AUGUST
The penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole. The penalty for dead bodies – disinterment and mutilations is up to 10 years in prison.
The convictions were the result of an investigation led by Det. Jeffrey Hooper and Det. Sgt. Michael Preadmore of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 19 before 38th Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Weipert, who presided over the trial.
Several members of Gibson’s family were present throughout the trial and are expected to speak at sentencing. McBride was represented at trial by Monroe attorney Steve Jedinak. The prosecution team included Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Allison Arnold, Leah Hubbard, and Anthony Capser, along with legal interns Ashlee Newland and Megan Peruski.
During the trial, prosecutors called 19 witnesses, including several members of Gibson’s family. Other witnesses included Medical Examiner Dr. Lokman Sung, numerous police witnesses, and three expert witnesses from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab who provided testimony on the forensic evidence.
The defendant called three witnesses during the trial, including the defendant himself.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Roehrig praised the result and the efforts of the team prosecuting the case.
“This gruesome case presented some challenging evidentiary issues, but the efforts of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and hundreds of hours of diligent and outstanding work by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Allison Arnold, Leah Hubbard, and Anthony Capser, helped secure this conviction," he said.
“It is difficult to imagine the hatred that must have driven the defendant to commit such a brutal and horrifying murder. The jury’s verdict was just, and will result in McBride living out the rest of his life in prison."