- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A D.C. man pleaded guilty Tuesday to murdering his wife in front of their children, a crime the woman had predicted weeks earlier when she pleaded with the court system for a restraining order, the U.S. attorney’s office in the District said.

Claude Kinney, 48, faces at least 30 years behind bars for the Sept. 13 stabbing of 42-year-old Alecia Wheeler. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13.

Kinney approached his estranged wife with multiple knives as she walked home with her four children in the 1200 block of Neal Street Northeast, according to court records.

Kinney grabbed Wheeler and began stabbing her in the head, neck, chest and back, as the four children screamed, records state. Kinney left his wife face down in a pool of blood and drove away when a passer-by responded to the screams.

D.C. police officers later caught Kinney behind the wheel in the 2300 block of New York Avenue Northeast. Records state the man was covered in blood and told officers, “I failed my family. I failed my kids. I want to kill myself.”

Wheeler died one day after she filed for a temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court, one of many orders she attempted to secure against Kinney.

In her petition, Wheeler said her husband made various threats, including that he would slice her throat and that if she tried to take their three children he would make up lies about her to have her institutionalized.

In July, Wheeler requested a protective order from the Prince George’s County District Court, citing a history of abuse and worry. “If I continue to be with this man I’m not going to be alive one day,” she wrote in the request, court records state.

The temporary protective order banned Kinney from a Capitol Heights home where Wheeler sometimes stayed with her mother, but the order expired Aug. 11.

That same day, Maryland District Court Judge DaNeeka V. Cotton denied a permanent order because Wheeler was “unable to meet burden of proof,” a court filing showed.

Maryland has a high legal standard for granting a permanent protective order. At the time of the killing, Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence said, “When it’s one person’s word against another, there’s not documentation or evidence. That can make it challenging.”

In the most recent petition in D.C. Superior Court, Wheeler wrote that Kinney had left a stack of “vile” fliers at her mother’s front door claiming she would perform sex acts with men.

Ms. Cohen said that while Wheeler might have considered this cause for a protective order, “Judges want to hear that there is a real danger.

“For a lot of judges, this would not constitute clear and convincing evidence.”

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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