Hanford man pleads not guilty to murder charges

September 6, 2013 4:59:24 PM PDT
A Hanford man could face the death penalty following the Labor Day murder of his own wife. Prosecutors say that Todd Pate not only tortured his wife Melanie, but they believe he used more than one knife in the murder. Melanie Pate was found in the backyard pool at the couple's Hanford home on Monday, with a laceration on her throat.

Todd Pate pled not guilty on Friday morning, but prosecutors say the nature of the charges make him eligible for the death penalty. The courtroom was packed with the victim's friends, who say they are obviously shocked, and working to support one another as a community.

Wearing shirts saying "Team Melanie," and a purple ribbon for domestic violence, Melanie Pate's friends packed the Hanford courtroom where her husband, Todd Pate, faced a judge. Those who attended were emotional, as the judge told Todd Pate that he is accused of torture, murder, and the prosecutors say the crime was especially heinous.

Larry Crouch, Deputy District Attorney in Kings County says, "The final allegation, which perhaps more is interesting, that we've alleged the use of a weapon and if you noticed it was knives, plural, which we found significant." When the judge asked if Todd Pate understood the charges, he said "not exactly" and then, pled not guilty.

Prosecutors also say Todd Pate is being given special care. "There have been some suicide concerns, I don't know the exact issue of what raised those, but certainly there's mental issues at this point in time," Crouch said.

The prosecutor would not elaborate on the details of the case, and said they are still evaluating. This, while the tight knit community of Hanford struggles to comprehend the crime itself.

Friends say Melanie Pate had filed for divorce and that Todd Pate had been recently served with the papers. The suspect will be back in court next week. Friday afternoon the victim's friends said they plan to be at every hearing to support Melanie through the entire process.

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