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Woman Gets Eight Years for Killing, Dismembering Husband

July 24, 1990

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ A judge who sentenced a battered wife to eight years in prison for killing and dismembering her former husband lamented her suffering but said the man didn’t deserve to die.

Juanita Irene Stinson pleaded guilty in April to murdering Charles Stinson in 1987. He was shot three times and his body was cut into six pieces with an ax and buried in a shallow grave.

Testimony during the trial revealed the woman was the victim of 35 years of physical and mental abuse.

″It’s a tragedy, the abuse that your husband heaped on you over the years,″ Judge Frederick C. Wright III said Monday after hearing testimony from experts who said she suffered from battered-woman syndrome and post- traumatic stress disorder.

″I’ve heard a lot about him - that he was not a good person, but people who are not good people deserve to live,″ Wright said. ″Taking an individual’s life is never going to be approved by this court.″

Ms. Stinson, 57, of Mountain Lake Park lied about Stinson’s whereabouts for two years, saying he was away on business, a plausible story since he was often gone for months at a time.

She later admitted the killing to an undercover state police trooper posing as a business associate of Stinson’s.

″What I see was a determination to kill, a determination to continue the anger by dismembering the body and a planned scheme or charade″ to cover up the death, Wright said.

He strongly recommended that she be incarcerated at Patuxent Institution, a state prison that offers psychological treatment.

Two of her daughters testified that their father punched and kicked their mother, sexually abused her, destroyed her self-esteem and prevented her from leaving their home countless times.

″He’d wake us up in the middle of the night slapping her around the room and beating her,″ said Irene Fickes, 35, of Williamsburg, Pa. ″All through the years I begged my mother to leave. She was afraid of what he would do.

The couple divorced in the 1950s, but lived together until his death.

Ms. Stinson, who told the judge she was sorry and loved Stinson, 58, walked out of the courtroom surrounded by more than two dozen relatives and friends. She surrendered to Garrett County authorities this morning to begin serving her sentence.

Ernest Martin of Oakland, who knew the couple for more than 12 years, said Charles Stinson could be ″as mean as a bear.″

″He treated her like somebody would treat dirt under their feet. He was mentally cruel to her,″ Martin said.

Dr. Neil Blumberg, a forensic psychiatrist from Timonium, testified that the abuse gradually eroded Ms. Stinson’s self-confidence and logic, rendering her feeling helpless and dependent on him.

He said battered women often strike out and kill their abuser after years of tolerating the abuse.

Blumberg said she might have dismembered Charles Stinson’s body as a way of making sure that he could never hurt her again.

″There’s an overkill reaction,″ Blumberg said. ″There is a perception that (the abuser) is going to come back and get them even though they clearly are no longer alive. The very gruesome cutting up of the body ... this was a final way to assure that didn’t happen.″

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