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Queens Chronicle

Sheehan heads to jail after murder acquittal

Community to hold vigil on Sunday to support Howard Beach mother

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:10 pm, Thu Oct 20, 2011.

With her wrists bound in black handcuffs, Barbara Sheehan, the Howard Beach woman acquitted of murdering her husband, yelled, “I love you,” to her daughter, who dissolved into sobs as police officers whisked her mother away to jail on Wednesday to await sentencing for a felony weapons conviction.

A jury of nine women and three men acquitted Sheehan, 50, of a second-degree murder charge last Thursday after she admitted shooting her ex-cop husband, Raymond Sheehan, 11 times in 2008 in what she has said was self defense. The jury did, however, find the mother of two, who had allegedly been physically and emotionally abused by her husband for nearly two decades, guilty of one count of criminal possession of a weapon, a class C felony that carries a minimum sentence of three and a half years in prison.

Sheehan’s attorney, Michael Dowd, said at Queens Supreme Court in Kew Gardens on Wednesday morning that he planned to appeal the gun possession conviction in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn later that day.

Dowd also on Wednesday applied for a continuation of the $1 million bail Sheehan posted after being arrested on Feb. 18, 2008, but it was temporarily denied to give prosecutors time to file objections to bail.

If the continuation is granted, it would allow Sheehan to return home before her sentencing scheduled for Nov. 10.

“It’s just very confusing,” Sheehan’s daughter, Jennifer Joyce, 25, said Wednesday of her mother being jailed. “She was defending herself.”

Joyce added she hopes her mother will “be back home tonight,” and said she, her 21-year-old brother, Raymond, and other family members and friends have been “doing a lot of praying.”

Dowd said while Wednesday morning “was a very hard moment for the whole family and Barbara herself,” he noted the Howard Beach mother has garnered support from individuals across the country.

“The outpouring of support from the community concerned about domestic violence has been overwhelming,” Dowd said. “There are people across this city, state and country standing behind Barbara today.”

Last week’s verdict comes after an emotional trial held over the past month. Throughout the past four weeks, Sheehan, her children and her attorney maintained she shot her husband, a former NYPD sergeant, after he allegedly pointed a gun at her and told her he was going to kill her. They also said the death came after he had allegedly abused her for the last 18 years of their 24-year marriage and had punched her in the face, smashed her head into cinder blocks while on vacation in Jamaica, threw boiling marinara sauce on her and threatened to kill her and her children if they ever told anyone what was going on.

Many in the Howard Beach community said they agreed with the jury’s verdict.

“All that abuse, for all those years, he did kind of deserve it,” Jason Volkens, who lives in Sheehan’s neighborhood, said this week.

Michael Walsh, another Howard Beach resident, agreed.

“She did shoot her husband, but there was a reason why she did it,” Walsh said.

Residents will further show their support for Sheehan during a community vigil on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 6:15 p.m. at the Ave Maria Academy and the Parish of Our Lady of Grace.

Despite the swell of support from individuals and groups working with domestic violence victims, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the verdict “should not be viewed as a victory for the defense or for victims of domestic violence.”

He said six million women in the United States are beaten by husbands or boyfriends annually —and 4,000 of them are killed each year, though a number of national publications on the topic cite statistics of about 1,000 to 1,600 women being killed by their abusers.

“Think of where we would be if only a fraction of abused women took the law into their own hands, as Barbara Sheehan allegedly did, and shot and killed their allegedly abusive spouses,” Brown said. “The place to address the issue of domestic violence is through our justice and social services systems.”

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