Tupper Lake woman gets 19 years to life for mother’s murder
TUPPER LAKE — A Tupper Lake woman has been sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for killing her mother at their home last summer.
Alexa J. Gallagher, 26, was sentenced on Tuesday by Franklin County Judge Craig Carriero for fatally stabbing her mother, Melissa Guiswhite, during a fight at their home on July 28, 2022. Guiswhite was 51.
Two months ago, even Franklin County District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford, who was prosecuting the case, did not truly know the motive for why Gallagher turned on her mother. But since then, more details have come to light.
“It would appear that the defendant and her mom may have had addiction issues in the past and they just never fully recovered from them,” Crawford said on Tuesday.
Attorney Peter Dumas, who represented Gallagher, corroborated this.
“Alexa was alleged to have been abusing drugs,” he said. “Not necessarily at the time of the murder, but within the time period.”
Dumas said Gallagher’s grandmother gave a statement to the court about the tragedy at Tuesday’s sentencing and spoke a lot about “forgiveness” — forgiveness of her daughter and granddaughter.
Dumas said Gallagher did not have any statements she wanted to provide in court on Tuesday.
“I think she was very overcome with emotion after hearing what her grandmother had said,” Dumas said.
Crawford said she had filed this statement with the court, but since it is going to be sealed she did not feel comfortable sharing it with the Enterprise. Dumas said the Gallagher also has a copy of her grandmother’s statement.
Dumas said the murder is a tragedy that can be “laid at the feet of drug addiction.”
Dumas said Carriero talked on Tuesday about how substance abuse is not a victimless crime. Crawford said she agrees “wholeheartedly” with Carriero’s remarks.
“Drugs are considered non-violent crimes, but anyone reviewing this case in particular would see that drugs lead to very violent crimes,” she wrote in a statement.
Both attorneys said this was a tough case for them.
“It was a really emotional and difficult case from a defense standpoint,” Dumas said.
Guiswhite had called 911 for help as Gallagher attacked her, but was killed before police could arrive. A recording of that call was played at some point for the court.
“You could hear a lot of the attack,” Crawford said. “And I think that was an important piece of evidence and that’s what helped us all come to the conclusion that this was a fair and just result.”
“It was a very emotional case,” she added.
“No one deserves to die like Melissa Guiswhite died,” Crawford wrote. “Family violence is difficult and all too prevalent, but the hard work and dedication of all involved has made sure justice has been served.”
Gallagher pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder with intent, a felony.
In lieu of a hearing, which would have led to a trial, she agreed to take a plea offer. Dumas said on Tuesday that a trial in this case would have likely led to a longer sentence.
Tuesday’s sentencing means Gallagher will be eligible for parole in 19 years. She will be 45 years old when the court will start to consider her release based on the crime, victim statements and in-prison conduct.
“She has a chance to get out and have a life afterward,” Dumas said. “So I’m hoping that she utilizes the time to rehabilitate herself to get to that point where she has a good life when she gets out.”
Crawford has previously said it is a hefty sentence, but one she believes is “appropriate” in such a tragic case.
“I do think that that was a fair sentence for this case,” she said on Tuesday. “I think that that was a just result.”
Dumas said they negotiated the 19-to-life sentencing based on the facts of the case.
“On behalf of my office, I extend our sincerest condolences to Melissa’s husband and family,” Crawford wrote. “I want to acknowledge the endless efforts by all who worked on this case, from the very first responders on that tragic day to the investigators who appeared with the family today, and everyone in between.”
On July 28, 2022, Tupper Lake village police and New York State Police responded to a home at 50 Lakeview Ave. at around 1 p.m., where State Police say they found Guisewhite deceased.
State Police said Gallagher fled on foot after the homicide and was caught by State Police and state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers in an unoccupied neighboring residence, where she was taken into custody.
Next-door neighbors were shocked on the day of the murder.
Friends of Guisewhite remembered her as “a great friend” who comforted others in hard times and a “delightful” hiking partner who “would give you the shirt off her back.” Guisewhite worked as a caregiver for the elderly.
Friends told the Enterprise she was a spiritual person who would talk about being a positive influence on the world. She had recently lost her father, and friends recalled how she had consoled them when their families grieved losses.
Guisewhite and Gallagher moved to Tupper Lake from Pennsylvania in 2017 with Guisewhite’s husband Mark.