Kestner-Bowden

Joseph Howard Kestner, left, and William Stephen Bowden

Two Marion men accused in separate crimes pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in Smyth County Circuit Court.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Roy Evans said 31-year-old Joseph Howard Kestner entered open guilty pleas to involuntary manslaughter and failure to stop at the scene of an accident in the January hit-and-run death of 87-year-old Margaret Poe. The Marion man also pleaded guilty to an earlier possession of methamphetamine charge.

Poe was killed on Jan. 6 after she was struck by a 1993 Honda Accord that crashed through her bedroom wall. The driver fled the scene, leaving the Honda protruding from the opposite end of the Riverside Road home, where it came to a rest after crashing through four walls.

Kestner initially denied being the driver, but later admitted to police that he was the only person inside the vehicle, investigators said.

During the hearing, Evans entered an autopsy report and crime scene photos into evidence, as well as a lab analysis for the drug charge.

Kestner is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 14.

During the Wednesday morning court session, 30-year-old William Stephen Bowden, of Marion, pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling and using a firearm in commission of a felony.

Bowden was accused in March 2018 of firing a high-powered rifle into his mother’s home on Avery Lane.

According to court records, Bowden went to the residence looking for his mother’s boyfriend, Tracy Anderson. Deputy Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Keith Blankenship, who prosecuted the case, said Bowden did not approve of the relationship.

As Bowden left the home, he fired several shots into the ground outside before he got back into his vehicle, according to the records. When Anderson came to the doorway, Bowden got back out of his vehicle and fired multiple rounds into the doorway around Anderson.

Six people were inside the home at the time of the shooting. Blankenship said no one was seriously injured in the incident.

During the prosecution, the commonwealth learned that Bowden had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Blankenship said the diagnosis was taken into consideration in determining Bowden’s sentence.

As per his plea agreement, Bowden was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison, with all but 4.5 suspended. Upon his release from prison, Bowden will spend two years on supervised probation and has been ordered to pay a $3,000 fine in addition to court costs.

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