Lawrence man sentenced to just under 9 years for killing girlfriend while on drugs; he apologizes to her family for his actions

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Johnathon L. West, left, apologizes to the family of Jennifer Mosby on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at his sentencing hearing in Mosby’s death. At right is West's attorney, Hatem Chahine.

Although the man who fatally shot Jennifer Mosby has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions, Mosby’s children said Wednesday at his sentencing that they don’t know if they will ever be able to forgive him.

Johnathon L. West, 43, of Lawrence, said he took responsibility for his actions in Mosby’s death, but her oldest daughter said in Douglas County District Court that the pain of losing her mother lives with her every day.

“I don’t even know what to say to you,” Mosby’s daughter said. “You just sit there. My mom can’t sit there.”

After hearing from Mosby’s family, Judge Stacey Donovan sentenced West to 107 months, or a little less than nine years, in prison for the killing. In May, West had pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, which was downgraded from second-degree murder through a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.

Before his sentencing, West apologized to Mosby’s family. He said he was under the influence of drugs and became confused when he killed her, but he understands that is not an excuse for his actions.

“I don’t know what else to say, but please forgive me,” he said to the family. “Whatever I have to do, I’ll do it and accept it.”

West was originally expected to receive a much longer sentence. His plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office recommended a prison sentence of 221 months, which is a little more than 18 years.

But when the agreement was made, the prosecutors and the defense believed that West’s criminal history fell under a different level of the sentencing guidelines than it actually did, District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said on Wednesday. She said the prosecutors and the defense later learned that Kansas Supreme Court case law precluded two of West’s prior convictions from being calculated into his criminal history for sentencing purposes. According to court records, West had previously been convicted of several drug offenses.

Without those convictions included, the state sentencing guidelines suggested that West serve a maximum of 107 months, less than half the prison time he had agreed to.

Noting that West had been remorseful for his actions since the beginning of the case, Donovan suggested that he consider the lower sentence a gift and use it to improve his life moving forward.

“I think everyone here hopes you see this as a turning point in the road and you will not be back in front of the court,” she said.

During the plea hearing in May, Chief Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple said Mosby, who was 41, was found dead at her Lawrence home in January after she had been shot twice, once in the back of her head and once in the back of her neck. West had shot Mosby, who was his girlfriend, after they had consumed marijuana laced with PCP, a drug that can cause hallucinations.

While West and Mosby were watching a movie “about sacrifices,” West told police he thought Mosby’s brain was telling his brain to sacrifice her. He said he blacked out, but he regained consciousness after hearing a “pow” sound from a gun. He saw Mosby’s body but didn’t know if what he was seeing was real.

He then left Lawrence for Topeka, where police responded to a call of domestic violence between West and an ex-girlfriend. During the encounter, West told the police he believed he may have shot Mosby. The next day, Lawrence police found Mosby’s body at her home.

Similar to what he said on Wednesday, West said in May that he regretted the incident and he was hurting from his actions as well.

“She was taken from me too, and I didn’t realize it,” he said.

Related coverage:

• Jan. 28, 2021: Homicide reported in Lawrence; suspect in custody, police say

• Feb. 2, 2021: Slain Lawrence woman was mother of 5, animal lover; police, prosecutors provide no new information

• May 14, 2021: Lawrence man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter in shooting death of his girlfriend

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