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Novak pleads not guilty to murder, manslaughter

WOONSOCKET -- The man charged with the murder of a 26-year-old Woonsocket woman pleaded not guilty on all counts Tuesday. On Aug. 31, Matthew Novak, 33, was arrested for the murder of Jennifer Gibson in their Woonsocket home. Novak was initially ...

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Matthew Novak, who was charged with second-degree murder on Aug. 31, walks out of the Sanborn County Courthouse following his initial court appearance on Tuesday in Woonsocket. (Matt Gade/Republic)
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WOONSOCKET -- The man charged with the murder of a 26-year-old Woonsocket woman pleaded not guilty on all counts Tuesday.

On Aug. 31, Matthew Novak, 33, was arrested for the murder of Jennifer Gibson in their Woonsocket home. Novak was initially charged with second-degree murder, but was indicted Monday on alternate counts of first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Without making comment, Novak pleaded not guilty.

Novak's attorney requested a jury trial, and motions hearings were scheduled for Nov. 8, while a jury trial was set for Jan. 11.

Novak appeared in the Sanborn County Courthouse donning a black and white Beadle County Jail jumpsuit, making no comments other than briefly chatting with another Beadle County inmate prior to his appearance. His court-appointed attorney, Jeffrey Burns, declined to comment on the case prior to the court appearance.

Few details about the alleged murder have been released, with court documents lacking specifics relating to Gibson's cause of death. Court documents do, however, state Novak "allegedly murdered Jennifer Gibson, mother of his child."

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If convicted of first-degree murder, Novak would receive either a mandatory life sentence or death. The second-degree murder charge also carries a mandatory life sentence, but without the option of the death penalty. According to South Dakota law, first-degree murder requires "premeditated design."

Alternatively, Novak has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. If convicted of manslaughter, Novak faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

On Monday, South Dakota Assistant Attorney General Brent Kempema requested Novak and Burns serve a written notice of intent to offer a defense of an alibi within 10 days. Failure to provide notice of an alibi or defense could result in the "exclusion of any testimony pertaining to an alibi defense," according to court documents.

If Novak's convicted of first- or second-degree murder, Gibson's death is believed to be the first homicide in Sanborn County since 1972, when Larry Gene Faller shot and killed Volney and Pearl Warner in their Woonsocket home.

The Daily Republic and various other news outlets originally reported Gibson to be 25 years old at the time of her death. In its original news release in which Gibson was identified as the victim, the Attorney General’s Office mistakenly listed Gibson as 25. Gibson was born Feb. 11, 1990.

Related Topics: CRIMEWOONSOCKET
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