ONLY ON 5: Thomas Pate opens up about murdering wife
(WMC-TV) - The Bartlett man who admitted he shot and killed his young wife is opening up about the murder, which he now says was an accident.
After nearly two years in prison, Thomas Pate looks a lot different than he did when he was arrested and on trial. He now has a shaved head, tattoos, a long beard... and his story is new, too -- at least, to the public.
In a new documentary interview, Pate talks about the night his wife's life ended. He also talks about the plea deal that saved him from life in prison.
"The day of court, the day we were starting trial, my lawyer came in and sat down and said, 'Son, they don't have any proof, but you don't either. And when you step in front of the jury, in today's media, sensational, you know, conspiracy movies and everything else, when it's just your word against theirs and you lied about knowing about the accident, you're going to prison for the rest of your life,'" Thomas Pate recalled in the interview conducted for the documentary.
Thomas Pate has no chance of parole from his 25-year prison sentence having pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of his 26-year-old wife, Micah.
On April 30, 2009, Thomas told Bartlett police that his wife disappeared while jogging in their neighborhood.
Micah Pate's body was later found in the Loosahatchie River bottoms with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
"I will never be as sorry about anything in my life as I am over that accident," said Pate.
An accident... without an apology.
"I didn't kill my wife intentionally," he maintains.
"We would have liked an apology. We would have liked to know what the story was but we didn't get that," said Micah's mother, Terri Rine.
Micah's parents, Dennis and Terri, as well as her brother Casey and baby niece Ivy, whom Micah never had the chance to meet, met with Action News 5's Joe Birch at Micah's grave site in Searcy, Arkansas.
"I come here every day I'm in town just to say, 'Hi,'" said Dennis.
Micah's father says he never felt good about his daughter's relationship with Thomas.
"Just different things personality-wise, faith-wise. They didn't have the same zeal, intensity," he said.
Because Thomas accepted a deal that kept him from testifying, the evidence against him was never presented in court.
But now, a Rine family friend and filmmaker is making a documentary about the Pate case. Ginger Blackstone gained access to the evidence prosecutors were ready to unleash at trial.
"On the night that she disappeared, there were several text and phone calls to another woman in New York that was on Thomas' phone," said Blackstone. "So his arguments about this being an accident kind of start to ring hollow."
That other woman, who is a school teacher and dance instructor, told Bartlett police she and Thomas were having an affair. In fact, the two spent Easter weekend together in Tunica just before Micah died.
But Thomas maintains they never did anything more than just kiss the other woman.
"Honestly, like I said, nothing happened," Pate said shaking his head. "There wasn't ever any sex of any type, way, shape or form. But the fact that it happened and the fact that I did have continued contact, as far as on the phone with her, was inexcusable."
Thomas says he promised Micah he would cut off all contact with the woman.
Phone records show that never happened and prosecutors planned to share prayer journals with the court. In those journals, Micah painted the picture of a broken marriage.
"And you can see in this journal this heartbroken woman just pouring out, 'Why is this happening? I never thought anything like this would happen,'" explained Blackstone.
"When she learned of the unfaithfulness and she learned of some of the other issues that her husband was involved in, she was ready to go to counseling with him, she was ready to do what it took to overcome or resolve that problem," said Micah's mother, Terri. "But her life was snuffed out before we could see if it did any good or not."
"I have never loved anybody like I loved Micah. I was not a perfect husband. But the fact that I hurt her like that, bothers me," said Pate.
The real hurt came two days after Micah's birthday, when prosecutors say Thomas Pate shot and killed his wife in the woods off of Brunswick Road.
He claimed it was an accident only after failing a lie detector test and ultimately confessing to his father, Tom, who is a Georgia businessman.
"If you notice very carefully, Thomas is not the one who first said this was an accident," said Blackstone. "It was initially after Thomas, Thomas starts saying, 'I don't want to die. I don't want to go to jail.' And his father says, 'This was an accident.'"
Behind bars, Pate refuses to give a straight answer about that night but he maintains his innocence.
"There's parts to that night, dad gummit I told... I told myself I wouldn't do that, um, to be truthful with ya, I don't know what happened," said Pate. "There's parts of it, I'm not comfortable going into it because honestly it's an emotional thing for me and I'd rather not be on camera as a blathering idiot."
"It's always so hard to go back there because it reminds you how much you miss her," he added.
The Rines miss Micah every day and wish she could've broken free.
"It jeopardizes your life as you can see with my daughter," said her mother.
The Rine family now serves as a voice beyond the grave, with a warning for anyone trapped in a bad relationship.
"I'm her mouthpiece," said her mother. "Hopefully, I'm a mouthpiece of God, too, because I feel like it's very scriptural. I feel like it's very much exactly how we're to live our lives and that is to discern, call a spade a spade and to turn your back on evil. And whenever we come across those folks in relationships, run. Turn and run."
Thomas Pate is scheduled for release in 2036 at the age of 52.
The documentary about this case is scheduled for release in late April.
Learn more about the group behind the documentary by visiting their website: http://christianbroadcasting.org/
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