Woman could be released in Merced hotel murder

MERCED, Calif.

/*Courtney Ross*/ was facing murder charges. But Wednesday, she plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter.

The victim, /*Johnathan Ross*/, was convicted of abusing his wife in the past. Attorneys say that would have impacted the jury if this case went to trial, and both sides felt it was better to reach a plea deal.

Ross walked into court wearing an orange sweatshirt and a cross around her neck. The 32 year old is hearing impaired, so a sign language interpreter helped her enter a plea of no contest to involuntary manslaughter charges.

"Going forward with a trial could take several months more and so she has a family waiting for her," said John Garcia. "She has 3 beautiful children that miss her and need to be with her, and she needs to be with them."

Police arrested Ross last July after she stabbed her hearing impaired husband to death at the /*Old Tioga Hotel*/ in Downtown Merced. But attorney John Garcia argues his client was acting in self-defense after an argument. He also says Johnathan Ross had a history of abusing his wife, including a conviction for domestic violence in 2008.

"It's documented," said John Garcia. "We will present some pretty nasty pictures of what she looked like after his felony conviction for beating her up."

Deputy district attorney Nicole Silvereira agrees those images and witness testimony could have impacted the outcome of a jury trial.

Nicole Silvereira said, "We do not believe this was a case that could be justified by self-defense, but we do feel there was a pattern of domestic violence in this relationship that would certainly color the facts of the case."

Ross is now facing a minimum sentence of probation and a maximum of four years in prison. The judge will decide her punishment in April after reviewing reports and hearing from the victim's family.

"I think she has an excellent chance of getting probation given all the factors I'll be presenting at sentencing, and if that's the case, she should be out," said John Garcia. "She's served her time."

The judge also lowered Ross' bail from more than $1 million to $50 thousand. Her attorney is planning to meet with family members to see if they can now afford to pay for her release.

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