Gissendanner enters guilty plea, will now be a free man

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OZARK, Ala. (WDHN) — A roller coaster of trials for the man accused of the murder of a 77-year-old woman has ended with him being free.

Emanuel Aaron Gissendanner spent over a decade in prison for the murder of Margaret Snellgrove in 2001.

Gissendanner has been on death row since 2004 for capital murder.

In 2010, the original trial Judge Kenneth Quattlebaum ordered a new trial after Gissendanner’s attorneys made unprofessional errors while defending him.

Monday, the state offered Gissendanner a plea instead of proceeding with a new trial.

“Today he pled guilty but really this is a result of many years of courts recognizing the inadequacies and problems with his trial,” Gissendanner’s attorney Becca Wahlquist said.

“We believe a new trial would have vindicated him, but we saw no point to continue to have him sitting on death row for a year and a half two years awaiting a new trial.”

However, the Dale County District Attorney’s Office is not satisfied with this outcome.

“There is some solace that he served 18 years in prison, and he pleads guilty today,” Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams said. “He’s not exonerated. He pled guilty to murder. I know I’m a district attorney. I’ll take heat or praise when it comes, and that’s my responsibility, but my ultimate responsibility is a conviction and the fact that he served 18 years in prison.”

Gissendanner’s family is happy he will return home.

“By the grace of God I’m pleased,” father Emanuel Gissendanner Sr. said. “I’m happy. I have no animosity out of my heart about anything. We put it in God’s hand and God worked it out for us.”

“It’s really a miracle because that’s the only thing I really asked for in life, and to finally see it come to pass, it brings a lot of emotions in my heart — good and bad but mostly good,” daughter Loretta Gissendanner said.

The district attorney’s office also wanted to clear up a misconception concerning allegations of rape toward Gissendanner, saying he was never found guilty of such a crime.

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