Self-Defense Killer Barbara Sheehan Tries To Cope With Life In Limbo While Awaiting Appeal

The woman who killed her abusive ex-husband got 5-year sentence; she, family and supporters carry on despite ruling they find unfair

JAMES FORDPIX11.com6:11 p.m. EST, November 10, 2011

The life of Barbara Sheehan, the woman acquitted of murdering her abusive husband, is in limbo while she awaits her appeal on a lesser charge, criminal weapons possession, to which she was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday.

“Plaxico Burress gets in and out,” Sheehan’s attorney Michael Dowd said after the sentencing, comparing his client to the New York Jets wide receiver. “She’ll have to do five years before she’s able to get out!”

Dowd expressed his outrage by comparing Burress’s two-year sentence for knowingly bringing a loaded gun that fired to a crowded nightclub with the five year sentence Judge Barry Kron handed down to the Old Howard Beach mother of two who shot her ex-cop husband Raymond in self-defense three years ago, following 17 years of testified domestic violence.

The reaction to Barbara Sheehan’s sentence was visible also on the faces of her two dozen or so family members and supporters who came to Queens Supreme Court on Thursday. Most of her supporters were affiliated with the anti-domestic violence organization STEPS to End Family Violence. They filled half the courtroom, and most of them wore purple ribbons or purple clothing, the color they associate with domestic violence awareness. Their hopeful demeanor before and during the hearing contrasted with how they looked outside of court afterward.

In fact, the gray, overcast day was consistent with the mood of Sheehan’s family and supporters. Her sister, Robin Catanzarite, was visibly stunned by the notion that when Barbara Sheehan goes before an appeals judge, he or she will now have to take into account the five-year sentence of the lower court in making their appeal decision.

The judge’s official sentencing statement in court even mentioned the support Sheehan gets from her close family. PIX11 News asked her brother, Michael Henry, what he thought of that on-the-record endorsement of their support. His reaction was terse. “I just have no comment at this time,” he said. He and the rest of Barbara Sheehan’s family are under orders from her legal team to not talk with news media.

Instead, the hugs and kisses shared by Sheehan’s family outside of court spoke of their closeness. In fact, her relatives have mortgaged five of their properties as collateral for Barbara Sheehan’s $1million bail. The family continues to rely on that closeness while awaiting the next step.

“The entire process may be up to a year, nine months to a year,” Niall MacGiollabhui, a member of Sheehan’s defense team, told PIX11 News regarding the length of time it will take for Sheehan’s appeal to actually go before a judge.

In the interim, Sheehan will remain at home in Old Howard Beach, with her family, who all live nearby. As close as she is to her family, their presence will be as important as ever as she fights against a future made up of years in prison.


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