Years of domestic abuse between a Waynesboro couple ended with a series of fatal gunshots. Wednesday, a judge sentenced Debra Kay Washington, 49, for murder - a crime she says she committed out of fear for her own life.
An Augusta County judge ordered Washington to serve 23 years in prison. That's near the top of the state's sentencing guidelines, even though the judge called victim Clarence Washington "a very bad man."
Debra Kay Washington, 49, had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and firearms charges. In July 2011, she shot Clarence during a dispute along a remote forest-service road near Sherando.
Both had prior convictions for spousal abuse, and Clarence had two charges pending at the time of his death. "These are two people that never should have been together. They fought all the time. The surprising thing is that they hadn't killed each other before this. There was fault on both sides. I think the 23-year sentence is appropriate for her," said Commonwealth's Attorney Lee Ervin.
A defense psychologist testified that Debra had suffered from an anxiety disorder, bouts of depression and other mental problems, but he agreed that she fully knew the consequences of her actions.
Prosecutors say Debra shot her husband six times, the final three in the back of the head. She told the court, "I was scared he was going to get up and kill me."