A Kanawha circuit judge on Thursday told a St. Albans man he was “violent and dangerous” as she sentenced him to spend a minimum of 30 years in prison for killing 8-month-old Lillyann Aubriana Hudson last year.
Judge Joanna Tabit said she only granted William Ellis Bowen IV mercy because a jury recommended she do so when they convicted Bowen in September of one count of murder of a child by refusal and failure to supply necessities and one count of death of a child by parent, guardian, or custodian or other person by child abuse.
As she handed down her sentence, Tabit reiterated Bowen’s history of abusing Lillyann, as described by Lillyann’s mother, Chellbie Elaine Hudson, and his history of domestic violence before he met Hudson.
“Sadly, based upon my review of all the evidence I’ve seen in connection with this matter, this is sadly a horrific culmination of abuse that this 8-month-old baby endured her entire brief life,” Tabit said
Bowen, 35, didn’t speak during the 15-minute hearing at the Kanawha Judicial Annex, where his attorney, Ed Bullman, had asked Tabit to order Bowen to serve his sentences concurrently, meaning he’d be eligible for parole in 15 years.
“Fifteen years before seeing the parole board would be a long time for anyone,” Bullman said. “That would give Mr. Bowen an opportunity to try to convince a parole board that his character’s changed and what type of person he is, as opposed to 30 years, which is essentially forever for him.”
Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Adam Petry asked Tabit for the consecutive prison terms she ultimately handed down.
“When will we be able to get Lillyann Hudson back?” Petry asked. “It certainly won’t be 15 years from now. It won’t be 30 years from now. We will never be able to have this child back.”
Tabit’s total sentence for Bowen was between 15 years to life in prison for the death of a child conviction and life in prison with mercy for the murder conviction, meaning he’d be eligible to have a hearing before the West Virginia Parole Board after he’s served 15 years in prison.
A life with mercy sentence does not guarantee a person will be released from prison on parole after 15 years.
Tabit ordered Bowen serve the sentences consecutively, meaning he will have to serve at least 30 years in prison before he is eligible to have a hearing before the West Virginia Parole Board.
Bowen was convicted on Sept. 17, at the end of a 2-day trial, during which prosecutors presented evidence showing Bowen had violent tendencies toward the Lillyann Hudson during the months leading up to her death in June 2018.
Bowen had been the only person in close contact with the baby during the 11 hours leading up to her mother discovering her almost lifeless body on June 23, 2018.
Lillyann died on June 25, 2018, at Charleston Area Medical Center Women and Children’s Hospital.
Lillyann’s mother, Chellbie Hudson, testified against Bowen during his trial, saying he often so tightly swaddled and held Lillyann that it made it difficult for her to breathe.
She said he would hit Lillyann and lie on top of her.
Hudson testified in Bowen’s trial as part of her own plea deal.
Hudson pleaded guilty to one count of child neglect resulting in death, admitting she left Lillyann alone in a room with Bowen beginning around 2 a.m. on June 23, 2018 after the couple had a fight about how Chellbie Hudson had cut Bowen’s hair.
Tabit sentenced Hudson to spend between three and 15 years in prison, which was the maximum possible sentence under her plea deal.
During Thursday’s hearing, Tabit noted that when Hudson and Bowen were co-defendants in the case, prior to Hudson’s plea deal, they played footsie at the defendants’ table during the hearing, saying Bowen “characteristically displayed a nonchalant, cavalier attitude” about what was happening in the case.
“You showed no remorse in this courtroom,” Tabit said. “You are a violent and dangerous man.”