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West Newton man sentenced in fatal knifing

| Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003

Michael D. Lemilliere stood shaking in a Westmoreland County courtroom Monday as he tried to apologize for killing his good friend, with whom he and his family lived for a short time last year after relocating from Florida.

"I'm sorry for such a terrible tragedy for all of us," Lemilliere said shortly before he learned how much prison time he'd serve for the Aug. 26, 2002, knifing of Anthony Whane Jewett.

Jewett, 42, suffered a rare fatal slash wound to his lower leg during a fight that culminated more than 12 hours of arguing by the men's spouses. Lemilliere was convicted in June of voluntary manslaughter for stabbing and slashing his friend.

In court yesterday, Westmoreland County Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. sentenced Lemilliere to serve a prison term of seven to 20 years. He faced a maximum penalty of at least 10 years in prison.

Lemilliere's defense had asked for a shorter sentence.

But McCormick said that although Lemilliere appeared remorseful, he still must pay for his actions that left Jewett dead.

"Your friend died. He bled to death as a result of what you did with that knife. You have to live with that," McCormick said.

Other than defense attorney Emily Smarto, Lemilliere was alone in court. His wife, Sheryl Smith, and three children, who sobbed uncontrollably at the conclusion of the criminal trial, were not in court yesterday.

The Lemilliere and Jewett families lived together for several months in the spring of 2002 after moving north from Florida to find work. They settled in West Newton and were friends to the day of the fatal knife fight.

At the time of the fight, the Lemillieres and Jewetts lived next door to each other on Water Street in West Newton.

The stabbing came at the end of a day that started with bickering between the men's wives. When the men returned home from their jobs as welders at a New Florence power plant, the fight between the women continued.

Lemilliere's wife said at the trial that Jewett initiated the physical confrontation when he struck her several times in the face and that her husband came out of their home in her defense. Jewett's widow, Sondra, testified that her husband never hit Lemilliere's wife.

Jewett was stabbed once in the chest and slashed in his chest and leg. Lemilliere attempted first aid, but Jewett bled to death from his leg wound.

Lemilliere at trial contended he acted in self-defense but also suggested his actions were only reckless at worst, and if a crime was committed it was a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter.

By virtue of its verdict, the jury determined Lemilliere acted in the heat of passion but that the killing was not done in cruelty.

Prosecutors contended Lemilliere should have been found guilty of third-degree murder.

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