LIBERTY — A former western Missouri firefighter pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, who disappeared more than three years ago after starting divorce proceedings.
In entering the plea in Clay County Circuit Court, Shon Pernice, 39, of Kansas City, admitted to hitting Renee Pernice multiple times as they argued, knocking her down a flight of stairs. He said the fall is what killed the 35-year-old nursing instructor and mother of two sons and a stepdaughter.
The Kansas City Star reported that authorities said after the hearing that they believe he put her body in trash bags and she ended up at a landfill. The unsuccessful search for her body had involved dozens of volunteers.
At the time of Renee Pernice's January 2009 disappearance, Shon Pernice was a firefighter in the Kansas City suburb of Independence. He also served in the National Guard and with the Army in Iraq.
Shon Pernice also was accused of stealing a neighbor's handgun and endangering his two sons in incidents that occurred after Renee Pernice's disappearance. As part of the plea agreement, he admitted two counts of child endangerment. Prosecutors dropped theft and witness tampering charges.
Pernice, who faces 15 years in prison, had been scheduled for trial next week on a charge of first-degree murder.
In advance of the trial, attorneys had been arguing over whether the prosecution could use GPS evidence used to track Shon Pernice. His attorneys asked that the evidence be omitted because investigators failed to obtain a search warrant to place the GPS device on Pernice's vehicle. A judge is expected to rule on the matter soon.