Norris Eugene Wells, a psychologically troubled Clarence businessman, today pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of his wife.
His lawyers and a prosecutor told a judge Wells committed the murder while suffering an "extreme emotional disturbance."
Lynn M. Wells, 58, was repeatedly stabbed in the chest on the morning of May 6 in the couple's home in the Clarence subdivision of Spaulding Lake.
Wells, 60, who has been jailed since his arrest shortly after the murder, entered the plea before State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti.
Seven of Wells' relatives were in the downtown courtroom this morning, including his son, Daniel, who also was stabbed as he tried to defend his dying mother.
Wells, dressed in a light blue shirt and slacks, spoke in a clear voice as he told Rossetti he was "guilty" of the reduced charge.
Rossetti noted that the Erie County District Attorney's office had determined the plea was justified because the stabbing was "committed under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance" linked to Wells' long-standing mental problems. He set sentencing for Jan. 7.
Before Wells was taken back to the Holding Center, Rossetti told him he would not give him a sentencing commitment and warned him that he faces a possible prison term of 5 to 25 years.
But Rossetti told Wells and his attorneys, Paul J. Cambria and Thomas J. Eoannou, and Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III that his "inclination" is to cap the prison term at 10 years, with a definite five years of mandatory court-supervised post-imprisonment supervision.
Under questioning by Rossetti, Wells admitted he is currently under a doctor's care, that he was satisfied with the legal work of his two lawyers and that he was voluntarily pleading guilty.
After Wells was taken from court, Cambria and Eoannou lauded Sedita and his boss, District Attorney Frank J. Clark, for treating the case in the proper manner, given Wells' long-standing mental problems. Both lawyers declined to publicly disclose Wells' specific mental illness.
Cambria stressed that all of Wells' relatives "are solidly supporting" him in what he described as "a tragic case." Cambria said Wells "seems to be making progress" under continuing psychiatric treatment while in custody.
Daniel Wells, 29, and other relatives who came to court for the plea proceeding, declined to comment.