A Paris woman avoided a trial and the possibility of the death penalty by pleading guilty Friday to the Thanksgiving Day 2012 murder of her estranged husband at his home in Windham.
Traci Y. Wolfe, 40, who has been incarcerated in the Portage County jail for the last 224 days on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence in the death of her estranged husband, Blake A. Wolfe, pleaded guilty to all seven charges against her in Portage County Common Pleas Court.
A plea deal worked out between the Portage County Prosecutor's Office and defense attorneys John Greven and Nathan Ray resulted in the death penalty being removed from consideration, Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said in court. The two sides instead presented a joint sentencing recommendation of life in prison without parole to Judge Laurie Pittman, who accepted it and immediately imposed it.
"I can't believe what you did and how you did it," Pittman told Traci Wolfe, who stood shackled and handcuffed before her in an orange jail jumpsuit, calling the slaying "cold and calculating."
"You did this to a man you were married to," Pittman added. "The way you pulled off this crime is unbelievable."
Pittman told Traci Wolfe she wanted her to see the autopsy photos of her former husband to remind her of her crime, but Vigluicci told Pittman he had not brought them with him to the courtroom.
Traci Wolfe and Thomas W. Walters, 43, of Shalersville, beat Blake Wolfe, 37, to death inside his home at 9302 E. Center St. in Windham on Nov. 22, 2012, according to the prosecutor's office and the Portage County Sheriff's Office. The tampering with evidence charge was a result of Traci Wolfe "burning and disposing of evidence at a separate location and a separate time" following the murder, Vigluicci said.
A graduate of Windham High School and Maplewood Career Center and father of two, Blake Wolfe was a welder and mechanic, youth baseball coach and enjoyed racing cars. Wendy Johnson, director of victim and witness assistance for the prosecutor's office, read four victim impact statements on behalf of Blake Wolfe that were provided to the court by his family, including his children, Landon Wolfe and Lily Wolfe, his grandmother Audrey Roth and parents Dave and Dianne Roman.
"He was my best friend and always will be," Johnson read from the letter written by Landon Wolfe. "He always loved me and I knew it."
Roth wrote that "we take hate, wrap it in love, and spread it around" and "wrap darkness in light, and light our way."
"God loves you," she wrote. "We are what we think."
Calling their son "an awesome person," the Romans wrote that while they "never" believed Traci Wolfe's stories, Blake Wolfe "believed in (Traci) and he paid the ultimate price." A "loving, caring, compassionate man," the couple wrote, they said he will "always be a hero" to his children and parents.
Blake Wolfe's family cleared the courtroom before Traci Wolfe and her attorneys made statements to Pittman.
Crying, Traci Wolfe told Pittman she had suffered "great humiliation, great guilt, shame and remorse" for her actions.
"I wish I could change what happened," she said, apologizing to Blake Wolfe's children for "taking the only stable and loving parent they had" away from them and to his parents for "taking their only child."
In a statement given to the Record-Courier by Johnson, they praised the prosecutor's office and investigators and pledged to take care of Blake Wolfe's children.
"The last 7 months have been difficult, and now we look forward to putting this behind us so we can concentrate on all the good memories we had with Blake, and carrying on his legacy for his children Landon and Lily," it read.
In addition to the life sentence, Traci Wolfe received three more years behind bars on the evidence tampering charge, with slightly more than seven-and-a-half months credit for time served awaiting trial. Walters pleaded guilty to seven felony charges, including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence, on May 21 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole by Judge John Enlow.
Traci Wolfe and Walters also agreed to testify against each other in court at a later date "should that become necessary," Vigluicci said.
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