WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | News, Weather & Sports

McGowan Murderer Sentenced to Life Plus 79 Years

By: Bianca Spinosa, Jennifer Black Email
By: Bianca Spinosa, Jennifer Black Email

May 26, 2010

Michael Pritchett will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2007 murder of 26-year-old Jayne McGowan.

Pritchett received a life sentence without parole on his capital murder charge. In addition, he received 50 years for a robbery charge, 20 years for breaking and entering and three years for each of the three firearm charges.

In the five-hour sentencing, the judge called this a tragic case for both McGowan and Pritchett. He said he thought carefully about the case before the sentencing.

McGowan's parents and sister, Meghan Casano, all testified for the prosecution, having to relive the events of McGowan's death in court.

"It was difficult, unpleasant, [but] necessary for Jayne and necessary for this community," her father James McGowan said. "We're glad this part is over, but of course it never ends for us."

"I think of her every single day," her mother Signe McGowan said. "It doesn't stop. And it's always the very little things."

Pritchett entered a surprise guilty plea in January .

The defense argued that Pritchett, who was 18 at the time of the murder, had an abusive and traumatic childhood. A psychiatrist speaking for the defense said Pritchett had been sadistically abused by his stepfather, who was a sex offender. She said Pritchett was attached to his mother, whose death during his teenage years caused him to become depressed and withdrawn.

"He's twenty years old. There goes his life. Now he's got nothing," said Robin Bryant, a family friend of the Pritchetts. "He should have thought before following someone, and doing something stupid."

According to the prosecution, Pritchett's cousin and accomplice Doug Gentry was the first to shoot McGowan. He shot her three times in the head, but the shots weren't fatal. Pritchett told police he fired the fourth shot because McGowan was suffering, but the judge said he should have called 911, and that was an impact in the sentencing.

"In this moment today, I think it was the most we could have hoped for," said Meghan Casano, Jayne's sister.

It will be the family's last visit to Charlottesville in a while, but Jayne's memory lives on in the community where she was loved.

"She loved UVa and loved Charlottesville, and I think Charlottesville misses her," said Signe McGowan.

Pritchett showed very little emotion in court, though he did cry when a former teacher he was close to had kind words to say about him as a teenager.

Pritchett's accomplice and cousin, William Gentry, faced the same charges in the murder and breaking and entering. He is already serving a life term.

The comments sections of Newsplex.com are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. E-mail is required, but will not be displayed with comment.

  • Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. We will not post comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.
  • We will not post comments that use hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our website.
  • Comments should not attack other readers or people featured in our stories personally. Any accusations should be backed up with facts.
  • Any comment we post will be posted in its entirety. We do not edit any comment that we post.
  • Comments should contribute to the discussion. We will not post comments that don't advance the discussion. Flaming and/or trolling will not be tolerated.
  • Comments should not attack other posters. Let's keep the focus on the content of the story.

    As a host Newsplex.com welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However this is a site that we host. We have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason The Newsplex reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.

    If you have any ideas to improve the conversation or this section let us know. Send an e-mail to webmaster@newsplex.com.


powered by Disqus
The Charlottesville Newsplex 999 2nd Street S.E. Charlottesville, VA 22902 434.242.1919 – Main 434.220.7522 - Newsroom
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 94932224