A Basye man must spend 28 years in prison for shooting and killing his wife in 2019.
Judge Kevin C. Black sentenced Larry Johnson Little Jr. in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Monday to 30 years in a state penitentiary for committing second-degree murder and five years for use of a firearm in the commission of the felony.
Black suspended five years on the murder sentence, leaving Little with 25 years to serve. The judge suspended two of the five years on the gun charge, leaving Little to serve the mandatory minimum of three years. Little must serve a total of 28 years for committing the felonies.
The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office charged Little with killing Melanie Little on Sept. 29, 2019, at a home the couple shared in Basye. The defendant fled to West Virginia after the incident but then surrendered to authorities shortly thereafter. Little was extradited to Shenandoah County, where he was formally arrested on the charges on Oct. 9, 2019.
Black ordered Little, 46, to complete five years of supervised probation and pay court costs once he is released from prison.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda M. Wiseley prosecuted the case. Public Defender Timothy S. Coyne represented Little. Wiseley asked the court to impose the maximum active sentence allowed under the agreement of 30 years incarceration. Coyne asked for the minimum of 10 years as allowed under the agreement.
Little avoided a trial when he pleaded guilty to the two charges on July 21. Little remains incarcerated at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail until he is taken into state custody. A plea agreement reached between Wiseley and Coyne called for Little to serve 10 to 30 years in prison. The recommended sentencing range falls below the state sentencing guidelines because Little did not have an extensive criminal history, Wiseley has said. Black accepted the deal but could have imposed a sentence outside the guidelines.
Coyne submitted a sentencing referendum that included his arguments for a sentence at the low end of the range. Coyne laid out the background of the case leading up to the shooting. The referendum notes the couple’s marital problems centered around the victim’s purported infidelity. The referendum states that during an argument over the affair, the wife moved toward the defendant, who then shot her multiple times with a handgun.
“For several months prior to the tragic shooting and death of Ms. Little, Mr. Little had been suffering from serious mental health and substance abuse issues,” Coyne states in the referendum. “In March 2019, Mr. Little attempted suicide at his home in Basye.”
Larry Little was admitted to the Behavioral Health Unit at Winchester Medical Center, where he stayed for a week, the referendum states. He engaged in therapy and counseling upon release from the hospital. He was seeing a counselor up to the day of the murder. Little also was receiving treatment and medications from a nurse practitioner at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital.
A clinical psychologist who evaluated Little’s mental state at the time of the killing, found that Little had a documented history of major depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder. However, the psychologist found no evidence of psychosis at the time the offense, and Virginia law does not consider voluntary alcohol use a basis for an insanity defense.
In arguing for a sentence, Coyne stated that Little had only a minimal record of criminal behavior. The sentencing guidelines for this case call for a range of 13 years to 21 years and eight months in prison, the referendum states.
“Mr. Little has clearly accepted responsibility for his actions by entering pleas of guilty to the offenses,” the referendum states. “He also confessed twice to law enforcement offices and has expressed his deep remorse for the offenses.”
Coyne states that the court should adjust the sentencing guidelines to six years and six months as the low end.
At Little’s sentencing hearing, seven people including family members of the 42-year-old Melanie Little testified for the prosecution. The defense called three people to testify, including the defendant’s counselor. Little did not testify on his own behalf.