LIBERTY, Mo. -- Shon Pernice, charged with the 2009 murder of his wife Renee Pernice, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter during an emergency hearing Tuesday afternoon in Clay County.
Prosecutors first charged Pernice with first-degree murder, but reduced the charged in exchange for the plea agreement.
Renee disappeared from the couple's Northland home in January 2009. Her body has never been found. During Tuesday's hearing, Pernice confessed he put Renee's body in the trash. He said the two got into an argument and that he hit her in the head and that she fell down the stairs.
It was a surprise confession to many who anticipated Tuesday's emergency hearing to be about evidence obtained in the case. Many expected the judge would make a ruling on a GPS tracking device used as evidence against Pernice. His attorneys argued it should be thrown out.
In hearings on Friday, Feb. 10 and Wednesday, Feb 15, the judge listened to testimony from Kansas City, Mo., police officers about evidence gained through the use of a GPS tracking device installed on Pernice's vehicle.
Attorneys for Pernice argued that a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which determined that evidence gathered from GPS tracking devices without a warrant is inadmissible in court, should render any evidence gathered by police against Pernice void.
The prosecution and defense had a deadline of five p.m. last Friday to file their briefs to argue their points. The judge was expected to decide early this week on whether the GPS evidence will be admitted or tossed out.
"I think it's pretty obvious and straight forward," said Eric Vernon, Pernice's defense attorney, after the hearing. "The car belongs to the individual. This was the government's trespassing upon his property and I think it's that simple."
In the pre-trial hearing both Wednesday and last Friday, police officers explained how a GPS tracking device was used to keep an electronic eye on Pernice in the days following his wife's disappearance. One officer testified last week that he was given the order to have the GPS device attached by a superior -- the belief being that Pernice could lead investigators to Renee Pernice's body.
With Pernice's guilty plea, any GPS evidence is now moot. If convicted, Pernice faces five to fifteen years in prison. He is expected to be sentenced in May.