Released for Publication September 11, 2014.
ON APPEAL FROM OHIO CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE RONNIE C. DORTCH, JUDGE. NO. 10-CR-00196.
FOR APPELLANT: Linda Roberts Horsman, Assistant Public Advocate.
FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway, Attorney General Of Kentucky; Gregory C. Fuchs, Assistant Attorney General.
Minton, C.J., Abramson, Cunningham, Keller and Noble, JJ., concur. Scott, J., does not agree with the portion of Section III of the majority's opinion which states that murder is not covered by KRS 533.060(1) as a Class A felony; however, he agrees with the remainder of the majority's logic under that section and, therefore, concurs in result.
Appellant, Donna Gaines, was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the shooting death of her husband, Greg Sigler, in late November of 2009. She was also charged with several counts of forgery because in the months following Sigler's death, Appellant cashed several of his social security checks by forging his endorsement on the checks. Eventually, Appellant pled guilty to those charges in the Ohio Circuit Court and was sentenced to a total of thirty years' imprisonment.
Appellant does not challenge the determination of her guilt or the term of imprisonment fixed by the Court. Instead, she argues that the trial court committed two errors in its decisions regarding her sentencing, each arising out of Appellant's claim that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Sigler. First, Appellant contends that the trial court erroneously found that she did not qualify for the earlier parole eligibility that KRS 439.3401(5) provides when a violent offender, such as Appellant, was herself a victim of domestic violence " with regard to" the violent crime she committed. Second, Appellant claims that the trial court erred in its conclusion that Appellant's status as a victim of domestic violence did not render her eligible for probation, and, consequently, she argues the trial court erred by failing to consider probation as a sentencing alternative. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the Ohio Circuit Court.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A brief review of the facts underlying Appellant's conviction is necessary. Appellant met Greg Sigler in the summer of 2009 while Sigler was at her house working as a member of a half-way house community service crew. A romantic attachment developed between them, and within a few weeks they were married. Soon after the wedding, Sigler's excessive drinking became evident and he began exhibiting violent behavior directed at Appellant and her twelve-year old son. Appellant also discovered in the first few weeks of the marriage that Sigler had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he was taking medication for that condition.
After a violent confrontation in November 2009, Sigler and Appellant were each charged with assault. As a condition of his release on bail, Sigler moved out of the residence and was ordered to have no contact with Appellant. Despite the bail condition, the couple resumed their relationship. According to Appellant, as soon as Sigler returned to the residence on Friday, November 27, 2009, his violent behavior resumed. They fought through the weekend, but afterwards, Appellant believed
they had worked out their differences. On Monday afternoon however, Appellant was disappointed to discover that Sigler was packing his belongings and preparing to leave again. Appellant testified that Sigler had been drinking, that he had taken money from her bank account, and that he was planning to take her truck when he left.
According to Appellant, when she refused to let Sigler take the truck a physical altercation erupted outside the house over the truck keys. They fought until Sigler knocked Appellant to the ground. Angry and afraid, Appellant said she went into her house to retrieve a gun. She then went back outside where she shot and killed Sigler. After killing Sigler, Appellant used an all-terrain vehicle to drag his body to a secluded area where, over the next several days, she burned his body to ashes. She also retained ...