Saturday, December 19, 2009

64 year old woman gets 6 years for "boyfriend's" manslaughter

A 64 year old Salinas, CA woman was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday for smothering her "boyfriend" to death. 66 year old Lynne Nicole Feurer pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter after being originally charged with murder. Her victim was Joseph Francis Cupita, 81, who she had met in a Chicago ballroom in the early 2000s. The couple moved to California in 2004. The presiding judge was California Superior Court Judge Larry Hayes.

On May 28, 2007, police found Cupita's body lodged between his bed and the wall in the couple's Pacific Grove apartment after an intoxicated and tearful Feurer told a newlywed at the London Bridge Pub that she'd just killed her husband.

Forensic pathologist John Hain concluded the frail man was suffocated, likely with a pillow by someone kneeling on his chest. Defensive wounds indicated he fought for his life, and Hain estimated it took minutes for him to die.

Feurer told police she and Cupita were fighting over his refusal to go to his dialysis appointment. She remembered struggling with him, but few details. Prosecutor Elaine McCleaf said the claim was disingenuous, because Feurer had the presence of mind to gather up her medications and passport before she fled.

Defense attorney Bryan Keller had planned to argue at trial that Feurer was a battered woman who acted in self-defense. He said he settled the case only when McCleaf offered manslaughter rather than a life-term murder.

But McCleaf said Feurer's alcoholism poses a danger to society. She cited three previous drunken-driving convictions and an alcohol-related theft conviction.

She argued that Cupita's vulnerability, the "gruesome" manner of his death and Feurer's callousness were all factors that aggravated her crime to the level of a maximum 11-year sentence.

Keller maintained those aggravating circumstances were balanced or overweighed by the mitigating circumstances that Feurer was a battered woman who acted in self-defense. He called for the lower term of three years.

The prosecutor said she made the offer in light of Feurer's positive contributions, community support and alcoholism.

The killer's son, Alex Feurer, said that "I remember Joe and I miss him a lot," he said. "He did many good things for my family, for my mom and me." "It [His mother's alcohol and prescription drug addictions]unfortunately cost Joe his life. But she's finally here. She's a whole person. She's not the same and she has a lot to offer."

Others who spoke at the sentencing included Reiko Hidaka Scott, cupita's ex-girlfriend, who said that "He was just such a nice, sweet, personable person. He really lived his life through his music and making people happy."

In the end, Haye rejected the battered woman defense put forth by Keller, but weighed that against Feuer's contributions and his own experiences caring for a Alzheimer's patient. Since manslaughter is a violent crime, Feurer must serve 85% of her sentence. She was credited with almost three years behind bars.

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