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Retired N.Y. cop's wife held without bail in his death

By Patrick Falby

HOWARD BEACH, N.Y. — A Howard Beach woman was ordered held without bail Tuesday after allegedly killing her retired cop husband, a slaying her lawyer suggested was motivated by fears for her life.

The victim, Raymond Sheehan, and the suspect, Barbara Sheehan -- who was charged with second-degree murder -- had what neighbors and police sources said was a hostile, tense marriage and said that the victim abused his wife.

On Monday afternoon, the wife, 46, called her sister in a panic. When the sister arrived, she found Raymond Sheehan, 49, shot dead in the bathroom, police said.

"I shot him," the wife told police officers, who subsequently responded to the home, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday. "I shot him. I think he's dead."

Sheehan retired from the New York Police Department as a sergeant in 2002. He spent most of his career in the Crime Scene Unit and was part of the team that sifted for human remains at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island after the Sept. 11 terror attack.

He coached neighborhood sports teams, his friends said. "As far as I was concerned, he was a good guy," said neighbor Frank Provenzano, 44.

But other neighbors, plus his wife's family, told police the couple were often at odds and that he physically abused her.

Shortly before the shooting, the couple fought, neighbors and her family told police, and they said he punched her in the face.

"The decedent was, in fact, the aggressor," lawyer Douglas Dollinger said in court during Barbara Sheehan's arraignment.

The suspect appeared to be on the verge of tears in court. The couple's college-age children, Jennifer and Raymond, sat in the second row, weeping.

Barbara Sheehan was ordered held without bail, and her lawyer wouldn't comment outside court about raising a battered spouse defense.

Michael Dowd, a lawyer who has defended a number of battered women accused of attacking their spouses, says that to win an acquittal, a defense lawyer has to get the jury to "see the world through the eyes of the battered woman, to see the dangers that were facing her."

Often, Dowd said, a battered woman will be criticized for not calling police -- the NYPD had not previously been called to the Sheehan home -- or not just walking out.

"But that's often answered by who she is," Dowd said, noting that some women, no matter how badly abused, will stay for the sake of their children or because they don't believe in divorce.

"There's also the fact that there really is no protection out there for a battered woman if the person is dominant and in control, particularly if that person has guns." Though retired, Raymond Sheehan still kept guns in his home.

When a battered woman fights back, Dowd said, "A lot of people say the woman went berserk.

"This often is the sanest day of the woman's life because she finally decided to stop the harm that she was facing."

Staff writer Rocco Parascandola contributed to this story.

Copyright 2008 Newsday Inc.

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