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Lugoff man sentenced for choking wife to death

Posted: November 11, 2010 3:37 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Tyrone Keith Frierson will be at least 62 years old before he can walk out of prison. Frierson, 42, pled guilty Monday morning to strangling his wife, Kisha, on Oct. 15, 2009. Originally charged with murder, which could have carried a 30 years to life sentence, Frierson pled to voluntary manslaughter.

As part of the negotiated plea deal, 5th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Ron Moak asked Circuit Court Judge J. Ernest Kinard for a minimum 24-year sentence.

Moak said a court-ordered mental evaluation, administered in January, showed Frierson suffers from “major depression with psychotic features” but that he was able to assist in his defense.

Frierson, dressed in a red Kershaw County Detention Center jumpsuit and handcuffed, quietly and slowly answered Kinard’s questions.

Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Investigator Jamey Jones provided Kinard with background on the case during Monday’s plea hearing. Jones said deputies responded to a 911 call placed by Frierson’s teenage daughter from their Ithaca Court, Lugoff, home.

“It’s a nice house in an upper class neighborhood,” said Jones. “When we got there, we found the victim lying in bed. The defendant’s daughter said her father told her ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it.’”

Jones said Frierson was acting “strangely,” taking out trash and doing other mundane tasks as deputies and investigators moved through the house. Frierson was arrested and read his Miranda rights and then taken to KCSO headquarters where his Miranda rights were read a second time.

“He was cold and callous. The only thing he said was ‘I acted in place,’” Jones said.

Moak said Frierson’s teenage son gave a statement that his father said, “I’m sorry, I choked her.”

“And Deputy Phil McLeod heard Frierson say, ‘When I got up, I realized she’d just been using me all the time,’” said Moak.

He said Frierson apparently believed his wife was unfaithful.

“During the investigation, he claimed that she wanted to get out of the marriage but that he was in it for the long haul,” Moak said. “If we had gone to trial … we would have shown this wasn’t spur of the moment. We would have had to call his children to testify and we negotiated this plea to try to keep that from happening.

“To outside appearances, this was the perfect marriage. But, obviously, something was wrong with that marriage.”

At the time of Frierson’s arrest, the KCSO said the children did not hear anything and were only alerted to their mother’s death by their father. Investigators said the couple had been married 19 years, moved to South Carolina 13 years ago and had moved into the two-story home in Lugoff three years ago. The couple worked as professionals. Frierson was a postal worker; his wife, a registered nurse.

Frierson has no previous record, although investigators did find that Richland County investigated some kind of assault at their previous home in that county some six years ago.

Monday, the victim’s sister told Judge Kinard she wasn’t looking for revenge.

“Nothing can be done to make this right,” she said. “Keith decided to take my sister away, not for 20, 25 or 30 years, but for forever. He made his daughter do her mom’s hair. My sister will not be there as the mother of the bride or groom … they were her world.

“The only thing my sister was guilty of was being married to a jealous, angry man. He could have left at any time. Instead, he took away her oxygen.”

Public Defender Neil Riley, who represented Frierson at a late October 2009 bond hearing, said his client was still taking anti-depressant medications he was taking at the time of his evaluation. Riley also said Frierson had been in an accident the night before his arrest.

“He was in a severe accident and had a CT scan. While it didn’t show anything, he did have some dizziness,” Riley said. “There’s an open question as to what effect that had on his behavior.”

Investigators said in October 2009 that although Frierson was taking the anti-depressant and a sleep aid at that time, he had not taken them before the accident.

Riley said when he asked Frierson why he had strangled his wife, his client had answered “I guess I felt unloved.”

“He had anger, jealousy and suspected infidelity, but this was a terrible tragedy,” said Riley, who claimed Frierson had been “open, candid, up-front and honest” with him since taking on the case.

Riley also repeated a claim he made at the October 2009 hearing: that early during his incarceration, Frierson believed his wife was still alive.

“He believed she was making announcements over the jail’s PA system,” Riley said.

However, he said Frierson has since taken responsibility for his actions and has been in jail for 392 days.

“A sentence of 24 years will accomplish exactly what the victim’s family wants,” said Riley.

Frierson spoke briefly, saying he was sorry for his actions and regretted what he’d done.

In accepting the plea, Kinard said he had no choice but to sentence Frierson to no more than the 24-year minimum prosecutors had requested.

“When someone murders someone, they need to serve their sentence day-to-day,” said Kinard. “They lived together for 20 years and he has no prior record. Strangulation is a terrible thing, but I’m going to sentence you to 24 years.”

Moak calculated that with the requirement to spend at least 85 percent of his sentence, Frierson would spend just a little more than 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

In other court news, a trial will begin Monday for three men accused of killing Derick Lee in August 2009 in his mobile home on Cricket Hill Drive in Lugoff.

Lee, originally from New York, was described by investigators as a “ninja” weapons master. He was found dead several days after he was allegedly murdered. Christopher Lamar Watson, 21, and Carl Carter Mendez, 21, both of Elgin, and Joshua Norton Stapleton, 24, of Lancaster were soon arrested for the crime.

Preliminary motions are expected to be taken up Monday with a jury being seated Tuesday.

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