MONROE, Michigan — A Monroe County man was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for the murder and beheading of a 79-year-old Temperance woman in February 2020.
Kenny Wayne McBride, 45, received a sentence of life without parole for murder and 114 to 480 months for mutilating the body of Cecelia Gibson.
McBride walked in the courtroom Thursday morning cursing at 38th Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Weipert who told McBride to wait outside before resuming proceedings.
Gibson's son, Billy Gibson, spoke during the sentencing.
"This is a shock to us all. This is devastating," he said. "She was my mother and grandparent to my daughter. She was in bad health, but it was unnecessary what happened to her," he said. "Even though capital punishment is not accepted in Michigan, I expect him to spend the rest of his life hopefully suffering like the rest of us have."
Judge Weipert called this case was one of the worst crimes the court has ever seen and the defendant's actions were "pure evil."
After three days of testimony, a jury deliberated for about two hours before finding McBride guilty of murder in the first degree and mutilation of her corpse.
Evidence at trial 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 her son parked when he arrived home from work – although he did not notice it.
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, Cecelia 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 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).
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.
“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," he said.