Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

March 22, 2014

Condemned Ind. man pleads guilty to 2nd slaying

NEW ALBANY (AP) — A southern Indiana man already facing the death penalty for killing a 75-year-old family friend pleaded guilty Thursday to the 2002 slaying of a Florida woman in return for a 65-year sentence.

Gibson, 55, will be sentenced on April 17 for his guilty plea in the fatal stabbing of Karen Hodella from Port Orange Fla., Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said. Hodella died on her 45th birthday, and her body was found near the Ohio River in Clarksville.

Gibson's guilty plea was part of an agreement with prosecutors, and a county judge accepted the plea bargain.

Gibson already was sentenced to the death penalty after jurors convicted him of killing his mother's best friend, Christine Whitis, during a 2012 attack in New Albany, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.

He could face another death sentence if convicted in the death of 35-year-old Stephanie Kirk of Charlestown. Her remains were found buried in Gibson's backyard days after his arrest in Whitis' death.

Gibson is set to stand trial in the Kirk case in June. Henderson said there is no plea agreement on the table in that case, which will have a jury from Vanderburgh County. Henderson says the prosecution will pursue the death penalty.

It could be years before Gibson is executed because of state and federal appeals.

Henderson said the guilty plea in the Hodella case came as a relief both to family members and prosecutors.

"Having this case out of the way ... we can focus on seeing the end of the road," Henderson said.

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