A standing-room-only crowd listened intently Monday as Sean M. Barrett was sentenced to 60 years in prison for shooting his wife five times in the back.
Even the jury box was filled with family and friends of the victim, Rochelle Barrett.
Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk sentenced the defendant to 50 years for second-degree murder and 10 years for use of a weapon to commit a felony. The sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning the Omaha man will not be released for at least 30 years.
Barrett faced a sentence of 25 years to life after pleading guilty to the June 2011 murder. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he accepted the plea bargain to spare the Barretts’ two children from having to testify. They were home at the time of the shooting.
Polk rejected defense attorney James Martin Davis’ contention that the shooting resulted from a sudden quarrel. The judge said he saw no signs of that.
“You’ve put me in the position of having to sentence your children,” Polk said to Barrett. “Whatever sentence I give you, I give them, because ... you are still their father.”
Davis had argued a sentence of 20 or 25 years to life would be appropriate, making Barrett eligible for parole after a decade or so under state guidelines.
In a low monotone, Barrett told the court he was sorry for the hurt he caused his family. He also said he never meant to harm his 40-year-old wife.
“(No sentence) will compare to what I have to live with,” Barrett said. “The whole night is a terrible nightmare.”
Rochelle Barrett’s sisters, Kim Nelson and Michelle Stevens, spoke about the loss.
“I hate that she was taken away from me,” Nelson told the court. “His nightmare is nothing compared to ours.”
Barrett, 45, told Polk during his Jan. 13 plea hearing that he intended to kill himself but instead turned the .38-caliber revolver on his wife, shooting her after she mocked him. She was found dead in their garage near 120th and Pacific Streets.
Kleine had asked Polk to hand down a heavy sentence, calling Barrett’s explanation “contrived, controlling and cowardly.”
Kleine said Barrett made no mention of his wife taunting him during police interviews or before the plea hearing.
“This is a classic case of (Barrett exercising) power and control over Rochelle,” Kleine said Monday. “He’s attempting to blame her.”
Stevens wondered whether Barrett showed any sorrow as Rochelle lay dying. He waited at least an hour before calling 911.
Barrett told police he and his wife had been arguing for a couple of weeks. That day, they had been bickering. Their children, then 13 and 11, were in the house, along with a friend of the 13-year-old.
Rochelle Barrett told her husband to keep his voice down and asked several times if he wanted her to leave.
Before 3 a.m., she prepared to leave. Barrett followed her to the garage. He pulled out a gun as she made it to the middle of the garage, near her car.
“I told her I was going to kill myself,” Barrett said in his police interview. He said she turned and saw him with the gun.
Asked what happened next, Barrett told police: “She said ‘Oh, no.’ And then I turned the gun and shot her.”
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