A Waynesboro woman who helped her husband dump a body into the James River in Bedford County was sentenced to 90 days in jail Tuesday.
Susan Jeannie Dudley, 26, claimed Christopher Michael Dudley told her if she didn’t help him, he would kill her, too.
Christopher Dudley, 29, was sentenced in May to 37 years in prison on convictions of first-degree murder and concealing a corpse. He pleaded no contest to the slaying of Sean Placko, 42, of Churchville.
Placko’s body was found March 7, 2010 in the James River near the U.S. 501 bridge south of Snowden, stuffed into a duffel bag. A medical examiner’s report showed he died of blunt-force trauma to the head and torso.
Susan Dudley’s lawyer, Lee Kilduff of Richmond, said her client came home to find Placko dead and her husband trying to deal with the mess. Kilduff said Dudley’s husband told her several times that he had killed a man in Baltimore, had killed Placko and could kill her, too.
“He threatened her. She was scared. She did what she was told,” the lawyer said.
Baltimore police had no record of Christopher Dudley being involved in any slaying.
Susan Dudley pleaded guilty in June to concealment of a corpse. Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz said during the hearing that she implicated her husband in the slaying and was willing, though unable, to testify against him because of husband/wife confidentiality similar to that enjoyed by clients and their lawyers.
Judge James Updike said he considered the woman’s degree of fear in following her husband’s instructions and her cooperation, but also that she was at times alone with the body and could have helped investigators earlier by reporting the slaying instead of helping to cover it up. He said he may have considered sentencing her to probation alone if she hadn’t already been convicted of a forgery felony.
She was sentenced to three years in prison with all but the three-month term suspended. Because she has a young child, Updike also allowed her three more months free until she has to report to jail in order to make arrangements for child care. She may also be released from the jail during days to work, the judge said.
A third man in the case, Andrew Clay Ottinger, also pleaded guilty to concealment of a corpse. He is set to be sentenced Friday.
Other witnesses in the case have testified Christopher Dudley killed Placko in a dispute over drugs and that Dudley planned to rob him of a large inheritance Placko received shortly before his death.