UPDATE: Man pleads guilty to killing wife, sentenced to 20 years

Published: Sep. 6, 2019 at 2:28 PM EDT
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UPDATE 7/8/2020 6:00 P.M.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia man has admitted he killed his estranged wife during an argument last August. News outlets reported 41-year-old James Michael Kiser pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday as part of a plea deal with Kanawha County prosecutors, . He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with credit for time served per the terms of the plea deal. Kiser apologized during the hearing to the family of his former wife, Crystal Dawn Kiser, and told the judge he killed her during a heated argument in August at her grandmother’s home.

UPDATE: 11/27/19 12:45 P.M.

A Jackson County man accused of killing his wife last August pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a first-degree-murder charge in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

James Kiser, 40, of Kenna, is accused of killing Crystal Dawn Kiser, 36, during an altercation in Sissonville. He then allegedly buried her in a shallow grave near the community of Kentuck in Jackson County.

Kiser is scheduled to go on trial on April 20. He is being held without bond at the South Central Regional Jail.

UPDATE: 10/21/19

Bond has been denied for a Jackson County man arrested on murder charges in September.

On Monday, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom denied the motion to James Kiser, 40, of Kenna, on his first-degree murder charge.

Kiser admitted to police in September that he killed his wife Crystal Dawn Kiser, 36, and buried her in a shallow grave.

“Given the seriousness to the nature of these charges and the proximity of the children, Bloom said in court Monday. “The children’s interest is foremost to because they are potential witnesses. I think that continued incarceration pending trial is appropriate.”

Kiser’s two children, both teenagers, currently live with his mother, Betty Kiser. She testified during the bond hearing that she would welcome Kiser to her home if he was released on bond.

Betty Kiser was one of more than a dozen family members on hand supporting bond for James Kiser.

Dwayne Harrison, a second cousin of James Kiser and former employer, said he had a job for Kiser if he was released.

Don Morris, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor, asked Harrison if he still trusted Kiser even though Kiser lied to him between the time the victim was missing and the admission of killing. Harrison said yes.

“He lied to his own family, he has lied on an application on the purchase of a firearm,” Morris told the court. “He has a prior history of violence, not only with this victim but with another woman.”

Morris said the victim had filed two separate domestic-violence petitions against Kiser, including one in which she claimed that he had choked her, and said she feared for her life. He also added that James Kiser had been stalking his wife leading up to the murder.

James Kiser was convicted in 1998 of domestic battery in Fayetteville and had lied about the conviction on an application to buy a firearm.

The lying continued to the police, Morris said.

“He gave two different versions of how the crime occurred,” he said. “He said he confronted the victim and used the words “lost it” with the victim. He initially said the victim fell inside the house during the struggle and hit her head. Later on, he changed his story that the victim fell outside, hit a rock with her head, causing death.”

On Sept. 5, Kiser admitted to killing his wife nearly a month after she was reported missing on Aug. 11. He told authorities he killed his wife during an argument at her grandmother’s home on Lessle Lane near Sissonville. He then took her body to a remote location near the community of Kentuck in Jackson County and buried her.

The Kanawha County sheriff’s office said the body was discovered early on the morning of Sept. 6. Morris said on Monday that the body was rotting and when found was mostly skeletal remains. Because of that, he said, an autopsy to find the cause of death may be difficult to complete but it doesn’t appear the victim had any injuries to her skull.

Kiser will remain in the South Central Regional Jail. Bloom said if the state doesn’t present the case to a grand jury by early 2020, he would take another look at a bond.


A man has confessed to killing his wife, who was reported missing last month.

Crystal Kiser, 36, of Kenna, was reported missing on Sunday, August 11th, 2019. She was last seen at her grandmother's house on Lessie Lane near Sissonville.

Her husband, James Kiser has been charged with first degree murder. According to Kanawha County deputies, Kiser confessed to the crime Thursday during an interview. He claimed he killed Crystal during an argument at her grandmother's house, then took the body to a remote location in Jackson County and buried her in a shallow grave.

James led detectives to the location of the shallow grave Friday. Forensic investigators with the Kanawha Bureau of Investigations along with Investigators for the WV State Medical Examiner's Office are exhuming the body.

James Kiser will be arraigned in Jackson County Friday afternoon.

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