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Sheehan kids say mother justified in husband slay

Barbara Sheehan (c.) walks outside of Queens Supreme Court with her daughter Jennifer Joyce and son Raymond. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
TimesLedger Newspapers

The murder trial of the Howard Beach woman who admits she shot her husband 11 times hinges on the ability of each side to reconstruct the personality of a dead man.

Barbara Sheehan’s husband Raymond, a 49-year-old retired NYPD detective of 20 years whom she killed in February 2008 in the bathroom of her home, is portrayed by prosecutors as a devoted father who provided a comfortable living for his family and by his two children as a violent husband who terrorized his wife. The often emotional trial has been played out at the Queens Supreme Court building, at 125-01 Queens Blvd.

Sheehan’s lawyers are invoking the battered woman defense and have called witnesses to the stand, including her son and daughter, to paint her husband as an short-tempered tyrant who always carried a gun and constantly abused her both mentally and physically behind the closed doors of the Sheehan home.

The defense contends that Sheehan suffered a lifetime of abuse and she felt her life was in danger when she pulled the trigger, shooting her husband in self-defense while he was shaving in the bathroom of their Howard Beach home.

The prosecution has sought to portray those testimonies as gross exaggerations, saying Sheehan murdered her husband over his infidelities, appetite for bizarre sexual behavior and the hundreds of thousands in life insurance money she received upon his death.

Sheehan is charged with second-degree murder and could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted by the jury, which consists mostly of women.

“As long as I can remember, my mom always had a bruise on her,” said Jennifer Joyce, Sheehan’s 25-year-old daughter, when questioned by the defense last Thursday.

Joyce shared numerous detailed stories about the violent, often nonsensical behavior of her father growing up.

Sheehan’s husband would blame her for events often beyond her control, Joyce said, punching her in the face if he was late for a social event, or if the family became stuck in traffic.

Earlier in the day, Sheehan’s 21-year-old son, also named Raymond, testified his father’s abusive behavior towards his mother nearly drove him to suicide.

But during Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore’s cross examination of Sheehan’s son, she questioned why he had never told anyone over the 17-year period he testified to witnessing the abuse.

At one point, Pomodore asked him to read an angry letter he addressed to his father but never intended for anyone to actually read.

In it, Sheehan’s son lashed out at his father for cheating on Sheehan, but the letter made no mention of abuse.

During Pomodore’s cross examination of Sheehan’s daughter, she painted Sheehan’s husband as a man who spoiled his daughter with elaborate gifts, including a blowout Sweet 16 birthday party where she wore a blue dress and tiara and danced with her father.

He also bought Joyce a new car and paid for a class trip to Hawaii, she testified.

Pomodore had cross examined Sheehan earlier in the week, when the Howard Beach woman testified that her husband used to wear women’s clothing or adult diapers and force her to watch him masturbate.

At one of the most intense moments of the trial, Sheehan broke down in heaving sobs and complained of chest pain when asked to re-enact how exactly she shot her husband five times with a .38-caliber revolver after she claimed he grabbed the semi-automatic handgun from off the sink and pointed it at her.

Sheehan went on to recount how her husband slumped down to the floor and reached for his handgun before Sheehan grabbed it and shot him a further six times.

Queens Supreme Court Judge Barry Kron told jurors they would likely begin deliberating the first week in October.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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