published Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Chattanooga woman gets diversion in manslaughter case

A 34-year-old East Lake woman who had faced a first-degree murder trial in her husband’s 2011 death received diversion when she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter this week.

Regina Rene Copeland was granted pre-trial diversion after a plea agreement was reached between prosecutor Lance Pope and her attorney, Lee Davis.

Davis said today that he’s always contended that Copeland was defending herself in what had been an ongoing, abusive scenario.

Copeland’s late husband, Demitrius Roshelle, Davis said, took keys from their 13th Avenue home on Sept. 7, 2011 to unlock the car she sat in as she talked to a female friend.

Roshelle, 31, then dragged Copeland into the home.

Copeland later told police that they fought inside the home and she ran into the bedroom and grabbed a .357 Magnum revolver from beneath the bed.

She cocked the firearm and told Roshelle to pack up and leave. Copeland told police the gun went off, striking her husband in the face.

The pair’s three children were asleep in the home at the time of the shooting.

Davis said he’d planned to call a domestic violence expert if there was a trial. But a diversion offer a few months ago resulted in no trial.

The defense attorney praised Pope and the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office for taking time to closely evaluate the facts in the case.

“In my 25-plus years of legal practice, it’s extremely rare for the state to offer diversion when you’re indicted on first-degree murder,” Davis said.

Davis formerly worked as a Hamilton County prosecutor before going into private practice.

Though Davis said he thought his client would likely be acquitted at trial, there is always the chance that a jury could side with the prosecutor’s version of events.

Under the diversion conditions, if Copeland has no other criminal charges over the next three years the voluntary manslaughter conviction can be dismissed and expunged from her record.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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