Death Sentence Recommended For Man Who Killed Three

Published: Sep. 19, 2006 at 2:57 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2006 at 1:30 PM EDT
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(BOWLING GREEN, Ky.) -- A jury recommended a death sentence for a south-central Kentucky man convicted in the 1993 slayings of a family.

William Harry Meece, 33, was scheduled for final sentencing on Oct. 20.

A jury found Meece guilty on Friday of murder, robbery and burglary in the deaths of veterinarian Joseph Wellnitz, 50, his wife, Beth, 40, and their son, Dennis, 20, at a farmhouse outside Columbia in Adair County in February 1993.

The jury also recommended 40 years in prison for Meece for the burglary and robbery charges.

Prosecutors said Meece and the Wellnitz's surviving daughter, Margaret "Meg" Wellnitz Appleton, contrived the murder plot to collect a $550,000 inheritance after the slayings.

Appleton pleaded guilty in January 2005 to three counts of complicity to murder and testified against Meece.

Meece initially pleaded guilty to the slayings, but withdrew the plea in May 2005.

The case lingered for a decade without suspects before police received a tip that Meece and Appleton had talked about being involved in the killings.

Vincent Yustas, one of Meece's attorneys, said he would appeal.

If the judge sentences Meece to death, he will become the 37th inmate on Kentucky's Death Row.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)