Albertville woman sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter

Leslie Sims pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year.
WAFF 48's Savannah Sapp reporting
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 5:31 PM CDT
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ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A mother in Marshall County received closure on Monday morning as her daughter’s killer received a 20-year sentence.

Leslie Sims, 41 pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2021 shooting death of Jana Chatman. Prosecuting attorneys were able to give a clearer sense of what happened the day that Chatman was killed.

Attorney Ed Kellett, representing Chatman and her family, says that Chatman was in her car on Dixie Dale Road when Sims fired 9 rounds toward her vehicle.

During preliminary hearings regarding this case, Sims attempted to claim she was shooting in self-defense.

Kellett says that a vital part of this case is the evidence that Chatman did indeed flee from Sims when the shooting began. In fact, Chatman fled so frantically that her car ran off into a ditch just off Dixie Dale Road. It was there that Sims chased her down and shot her one fatal time.

Chatman was found lying beside her vehicle by the Albertville Police Department.

Kellett says that a set of keys found on the scene belonging to Sims allowed them to connect her to Chatman’s death.

At this time, prosecutors are saying that only Sims truly knows the motive behind killing Chatman, so no motive has been released since the crime.

Judge Christopher Abel of Marshall County handed down the sentence to Sims. This comes after the defense for Sims brought four different witnesses to testify about her character. The defense also requested leniency in the sentence Sims faced.

One witness included her ex-husband who testified that Sims was active in the church ministry and a program for helping those with addiction. This, however, did not keep Judge Abel from giving her the maximum amount of time for the charge.

Chatman’s family was present as Sims heard her fate. Two family members read victim impact statements before Judge Abel.

Chatman’s mother Michelle Abney said in her statement that no mother should ever have to face such tragedy. Additionally, she personally called out Sims and pleads for her to share the motive with her in a letter.

“She’s got to pay for what she did to my daughter. I do feel sorry for Leslie Sims because she did get her life together for 10 years but she relapsed. So she’s got to pay for this,” Abney told WAFF 48.

Abney and her family have an idea of what caused this to happen, however, prosecutors have not revealed any motive for the reckless killing. Abney, however, does confirm that Sims and Chatman knew each other well.

Abney shares that though she may be filled with grief, she feels additional heartache for the family of Leslie Sims.

“I told her daughter, if she ever needed anything, just to reach out. If she just needs to talk, she can reach out, and I do want to help them if they need help because I know what they’re going through. I have to go every day without my daughter, now they have to go twenty years without their mother. So I do hope they reach out to me,” says Abney.

Sims will have another court date in July regarding restitution and where she will serve her sentence.

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