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Belton takes plea deal for wife's shooting


By Jason Gonzales

WILMINGTON, NC ( -- Davis Ray Belton, whose murder trial in September ended with a hung jury, pleaded guilty Thursday to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife and received a 57- to 78-month sentence.

At his trial, prosecutors argued that Belton, 66, acted with malice and premeditation when he shot and killed Diane Clemmons in their Kerr Avenue home. For the next 18 to 20 hours he continued drinking from his bottle of E&J brandy while his wife lay dead.

Belton's defense argued that the Sept. 3, 2011, shooting happened when Clemmons was lounging in a recliner in the couple's living room watching NASCAR while Belton was sitting on the couch. Defense attorney Jennifer Harjo told the jury that Belton was in a fog of booze and muscle relaxers when he tried to show his wife of more than a decade how to handle a weapon and his finger accidentally slipped onto the trigger.

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