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North Union woman agrees to plea deal in boyfriend's fatal stabbing

| Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County woman charged with homicide in the 2011 stabbing death of her boyfriend would serve 7 to 14 years in jail under a plea bargain she agreed to on Monday.

Debra Ann Becker, 42, of 237 Turkeyfoot Road, North Union, submitted a guilty plea to a charge of voluntary manslaughter before Common Pleas Judge Nancy Vernon.

Becker was charged in the Dec. 10, 2011, stabbing death of Ronald Alois Mudery Jr.

Shortly after the incident, she told police she inadvertently stabbed Mudery when she attempted to stop his pit bull from attacking her, and he tried to save the dog, according to court records.

She told police the pair had been arguing when Mudery commanded the dog to attack her, according to a criminal complaint.

In May 2012, Becker failed in her attempt to have the homicide charge thrown out and her statements to police suppressed as evidence.

“I'm here to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter,” Becker told Vernon on Monday.

Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000, Vernon told Becker.

She asked Becker to explain what happened on the day Mudery died.

Becker said the two, who lived together, were arguing and she grabbed a kitchen knife.

“He was encouraging the dog to come after me,” Becker said.

“Did you intentionally try to stab Ronald Mudery?” Vernon asked.

“Yes. Because of past history. When we were fighting, he could get physical,” Becker said.

Vernon said a claim of self-defense would negate the heat of passion element required for an admission of voluntary manslaughter.

Becker said she agreed with Assistant District Attorney Doug Sepic that hers was an “imperfect self-defense.”

An imperfect self-defense can reduce a defendant's liability because of an actual, but unreasonable, belief that her life was in danger.

Becker said she intended to stab both the dog and Mudery out of fear.

“I was scared ... I didn't know what else to do,” she said.

Becker said she went to a neighbor's to seek help for Mudery.

Sepic told Vernon that Mudery's family was satisfied with the plea. They did not attend Monday's proceedings.

Vernon will formally sentence Becker at 2:30 p.m. on July 30.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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