Theirs was a childhood marked by an explosive father, Raymond Sheehan, a man seen as a pillar of the Howard Beach community but who, his son and daughter testified, was a terror inside the home, making them live in constant fear of provoking a fury that resulted in him allegedly beating their mother so frequently that they rarely saw her without bruises.
“I heard my father call my mother a piece of sh** every day,” Raymond Sheehan, 21, said last week at the Queens Supreme Courthouse in Kew Gardens, where his mother, Barbara Sheehan, stands trial for shooting her ex-cop husband 11 times at their Howard Beach home in 2008. “I hated what he did to my mom, to my sister, to me. I hated how he tortured us.”
Raymond Sheehan, a physiologist who works with autistic children and the former quarterback at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, and his sister, Jennifer Joyce, 25, a nurse who administers chemotherapy at a hospital in San Diego, testified for hours last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, speaking in detail about a man who they said told them he would kill them about once a month for as long as they can remember.
Both children testified that one of their first memories is of their father, a retired NYPD sergeant, abusing their mother, who works as a secretary for the city Department of Education.
“I was about 4 years old,” Joyce testified. “I was lying in bed, it was shaking and I could hear my father yelling at my mother, calling her fat and lazy and stupid.”
Joyce said her father portrayed himself as a family man who loved coaching his children in various sports and traveling to exotic locations with them on vacation, but would then in private scream at his children for “embarrassing” him during a game and take out his rage on their mother.
“For as long as I can remember, my mom always had a bruise on her,” Joyce testified.
Both children said they were terrified for their mother and would contact her numerous times a day to make sure she was alright.
Despite being afraid for her safety, Raymond Sheehan, the son, said he chose to leave after graduating from high school.
“I really seriously had thoughts of suicide,” he said. “I really couldn’t live with my father because I was afraid I would do that.”
When questioning Raymond Sheehan and Joyce, the prosecutor, Debra Pomodore, repeatedly asked the two about the vacations and other activities for which their father would help to pay.
“Isn’t it true your dad paid for you to go to Hawaii?” Pomodore asked the son.
“As well as my mother, yes,” Raymond Sheehan replied.
Pomodore also focused on the money the two children received from their father’s life insurance policy.
Each child received a little more than a couple hundred thousand dollars from the life insurance policy, which they said they used to pay off the mortgage on their mother’s house in Howard Beach and for school loans.
When asked about these funds, Joyce broke down.
“Can’t you see it wasn’t about the money?” Joyce said to Pomodore.
The prosecutor also asked the son if he ever called 911 or sent an anonymous email to the NYPD, to which he responded to both that he “couldn’t” because he said he was afraid it would result in his father further beating his mother, with whom he said he always had a good relationship.
During his testimony, Pomodore asked him to read a journal entry Raymond Sheehan had written about his father in 2004 — which made the son bury his head in his hands and sob.
“I hope he dies,” the son wrote.
Barbara Sheehan’s defense rested its case on Monday after a number of other witnesses testified, including several of Barbara Sheehan’s friends and a close friend of her husband, who spoke of an incident during which Barbara Sheehan said her husband repeatedly smashed her head against a cinder block wall while vacationing with another couple and their son in the island of Jamaica.
Judge Barry Kron told jurors on Monday that he expects summations to take place early next week, after which the jury will begin its deliberations.
Ronald Ferrara, a family friend, testified in court the same day as the Sheehans’ son and daughter, saying he had always believed Raymond Sheehan was a “really good guy.”
Then Ferrara, his wife and his son travelled to Jamaica with Raymond and Barbara Sheehan and their son. He recalled when Barbara Sheehan had gone to get her husband, who was late meeting them for dinner, and returned with a “towel full of blood on her head.”
“Ray said she slipped and fell in the bathroom,” said Ferrara, a retired sanitation worker. “Ray did all the talking.”
Betsy Torres, who worked with Barbara Sheehan at IS 364 in Brooklyn for five years until 2008 also testified, saying that she noticed her friend would have visible bruises twice or three times a week.
“I’d hear him on the phone saying if she didn’t get to the house, he was going to kill the kids or her parents,” she said.