FORT EDWARD — The Fort Ann man who is accused of strangling his 95-year-old grandmother last summer is considering a plea deal offer that would send him to prison for 22 years to life.
Kevin L. Gonyea was in Washington County Court for a pretrial hearing Tuesday that was to focus on the admissibility of the statements he made to police last July, after his grandmother, Leona Twiss, was found dead in the bedroom of her West Fort Ann home.
Instead, his lawyer, Greg Teresi, spent at least five hours conferencing with Gonyea, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan and Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan as a possible resolution to the charges was discussed. The day ended with the case adjourned until Jan. 19 for a ruling on pretrial motions and establishment of a trial date, if no guilty plea occurs.
Teresi said his client maintains his innocence, but was considering a plea deal to avoid the potential of a longer sentence if he were convicted at trial.
“At this point, he is willing to consider all the options that have been put before him,” Teresi said. “He’s still adamant this wasn’t him, and there were other people in the vicinity who had a motive and accessibility to the victim.”
Gonyea, 50, is accused of choking Twiss with a towel July 9 as she battled dementia and the family was considering putting her in a nursing home. Gonyea and his wife had moved from Florida to care for Twiss and her husband, who died in November 2016.
Prosecutors believe Gonyea killed Twiss because he wanted to return to Florida.
Gonyea’s wife, 35-year-old Melissa Gonyea, was charged with helping him dispose of the towel allegedly used to kill Twiss, and she pleaded guilty to seven charges last month, agreeing to testify against her husband in exchange for a 4-2/3- to 14-year prison sentence.
The Gonyeas told police they believed Twiss fell out of bed before she died, and she did not have any obvious serious injuries. But an autopsy found she had been choked to death, and a police investigation led to the Gonyeas being charged two days later.
She told police that her husband came out of Twiss’ bedroom crying, said “It’s done” and told her to dispose of the towel he had, court records show. She took police to a remote part of West Fort Ann, where the towel was recovered days later as she accompanied police.
Jordan said plea discussions occur to avoid a trial for a number of reasons.
“Trials bring uncertainty and they bring difficulties for the family,” he said. “We’re ready to go to trial, but Mr. Teresi wanted to keep that door open for his client.”
Gonyea was given until Monday to accept the plea offer, or it will be withdrawn. In addition to a second-degree murder count, he also faces charges related to alleged welfare fraud before Twiss’ death, which could result in additional consecutive prison sentences.
He is being held in Washington County Jail without bail.