WISE, Va. — A former Army reservist pleaded guilty Thursday in the 2014 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend.
Kristen Padilla, a 21-year-old Appalachia, Virginia, woman, was shot seven times Sept. 18, 2014, on the lot of a gated storage facility, according to the town of Wise Police Department.
On Thursday morning, her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Wesley Tate, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a murder.
"This is one more step towards closure for the family of the victim in this case," said Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp.
Padilla, a local call center employee from Colorado Springs, Colorado, had met Tate on the Internet in the summer of 2013, her mother, Aubrey Valdez, told the Bristol Herald Courier. The two chatted for a while and soon began to date.
The relationship deteriorated a few months before Padilla died in a hail of gunfire.
On Sept. 18, 2014, Tate had gone to meet Padilla at her family’s home in Appalachia. The two left and drove to Wise. Her mother said the meeting involved a discussion of money.
The pair stopped at a storage facility on Rigg Avenue. Wise Police Chief Tony Bates said it appears there was an argument between the two, but he did not reveal the topic of the argument.
Wise County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Ken Lammers said Tate, who was outside the vehicle, reached in, retrieved his pistol, which police said was a 9 mm handgun, and shot Padilla four times.
Lammers said Tate told investigators that Padilla exited the vehicle and started running. She then collapsed and was shot three more times, Lammers said.
Tate was later apprehended without incident at his mother’s home. He originally pleaded not guilty and a three-day trial was set for Aug. 29. A sentencing hearing is now set that day. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison plus three years.
“These convictions were made possible by the hard work and professional efforts of several law enforcement agencies, including the town of Wise Police Department, the Wise County Sheriff's Department, and the UVa-Wise Campus Police,” Slemp said. “We are thankful for their efforts to bring justice for these horrific acts.”