BENTONVILLE -- A Bentonville woman was sentenced to 36 years in prison after admitting to attempting to kill a bicyclist as a sacrifice to God, but deciding later to beat her grandmother to death with an hammer in order to appease God.
Andrea Lea Wilson, 28, pleaded guilty Monday to first degree murder, aggravated assault and battery. She was originally charged with capital murder, but agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge under a plea agreement that Shane Wilkinson, Wilson's attorney, reached with Joshua Robinson, deputy prosecutor.
The hearing was conducted via Zoom with Wilson at the Benton County Jail. The judge was the only one in the courtroom with the other parties also participating by video conferencing.
Wilson told Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green that she understood her rights and had not been coerced into pleading guilty.
Wilson admitted that at 1:42 a.m. May 15, 2018, that she struck Jonathan Hampton with a car while he was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk along S.W. Regional Airport Boulevard in Bentonville when he was struck from behind by the car, according to court documents.
Hampton was knocked off his bicycle, and he saw Wilson driving towards him, according to court documents. Hampton said Wilson appeared angry inside the vehicle and was yelling, according to court documents.
Hampton reported that Wilson's posture and eyes changed, and she then asked him for help and appeared normal, according to court documents
Wilson went to her grandmother's home in Pea Ridge later that day, and the two ate dinner together, Robinson said.
Ruby Ross, her grandmother, went to sleep and Wilson struck the 81-year-old woman in the head with a hammer approximately four times killing Ross, Robinson said.
Robinson said Wilson concealed the hammer and other items in a garbage bag and placed those items in an out building on the property.
Robinson said Wilson has undergone several mental evaluations as part of the case, and she said she was not taking her prescribed lithium at the time of the crimes.
Wilson reported in the evaluations that she believed God had told her she needed to make a sacrifice or else she would be sent to Hell, Robinson said.
She believed May 15, 2018, was the last chance for her to make the sacrifice and she attempted to kill Hampton, Robinson said. She then decided to murder her grandmother to appease God, Robinson said.
Robinson told Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green that Wilson underwent evaluations conducted by experts for prosecutors and the defense, and the experts disagree as to whether Wilson was able to appreciate the criminality of her conduct and conform her behavior to the law.
Robinson said law enforcement and Hampton were in favor of the agreement. Family members of Ross and Wilson were also in favor of the agreement, but some family members wanted a more lenient resolution, Robinson said.
LeAnn Ross, Wilson's aunt, and Gregory Wilson, her brother, gave victim impact statements.
LeAnn Ross held up a photograph of her mother and father. She had provided a copy of the photograph to the court.
"It's a beautiful photograph," the judge said. "Thank you for providing it."
Ross told the judge that her parents were hard-workers and provided a loving home which her niece and nephew did not have. She said the two suffered from neglect and abuse as children, and their childhoods were marred by their parents' drug use.
Ross said her father died in 2007 and his death was especially hard on "Andrea" because she was always a paw-paw' girl.
"It has been almost three years and while we know that Andrea has to suffer the consequences of her actions we please ask for mercy," Ross said.
Ross said if her was here she would not want her granddaughter to be punished her entire life. "Actually if she could manifest herself in court today she would tell you to let her go because of her complete and and utter love of Andrea," Ross said. "I want Andrea to know that I forgive her. She is valuable and we still love her."
Gregory Wilson described his grandmother as the kindest person that he has known. "Her tremendous sense of empathy in an unforgiving world particularly for those who were considered to have done horrible things was always inspiring to me," he said. "We didn't see that often at home, so that was perhaps one of her best lessons I gained from her lifetime of love."
He told the judge if his grandmother were here now, she would ask for the maximum opportunity for redemption in the case. "She would aspire for the defendant to live up to her unrecognized potential, more importantly she would want the defendant to honor the sacrifices of our family so that the next generation faces less hardships and more joy," Gregory Wilson said.
Andrea Wilson could be seen on the screen in the courtroom wiping away tears as her aunt and brother read their statements.
Robinson told the judge that the family's wishes and the issues with the mental evaluations are reasons for resolving the case with the plea agreement.
Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green accepted the plea agreement and Wilson's guilty plea.
Andrea Wilson gave her own statement in court. She first apologized to Hampton. "I don't know you," she said. "I'm ashamed you cross paths with me that night. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me."
She then apologized to her family. "I've been waiting on this moment for three years," she said.
She said there's not enough words to express her remorse and she took full responsibility for her actions. She said she not the same person that was arrested in 2018.
Green sentenced her to 36 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Wilson must abide by a suspended sentence for 10 years after her release from prison. She will be eligible for parole after serving 19 years in prison.
"This case started out as a death penalty case, but it was always more complicated than it initially appeared," Wilkinson said. "Andrea has a history of mental illness combined with a terrible upbringing that has never truly been acknowledged. She is now on her medications and will remain that way when released."