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Battered Woman Who Shot Husband Over Dinner Sentenced to Five Years

March 8, 1990

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) _ A battered woman who killed her husband after he criticized her cooking was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison despite testimony that she suffered years of abuse.

Virginia Eagan, 53, of Omro was convicted Jan. 31 of homicide by negligent use of a weapon. Psychiatrists told jurors that Mrs. Eagan suffered from an abuse-related emotional disturbance known as battered wife syndrome.

Winnebago County Circuit Judge William E. Crane said he imposed the maximum sentence because ″battered women syndrome doesn’t warrant killing someone.″

″Virginia Eagan took a gun at close range while both of them were drinking, and shot him through the heart and killed him,″ Crane said. ″People have to face up to responsibility.″

Mrs. Eagan shot her husband of 32 years, Eugene Eagan, 56, during a July 2 argument over boiled potatoes and beets at the couple’s rural town of Omro farm in east central Wisconsin.

During the trial, both prosecution and defense attorneys characterized Eagan, who was disabled and used a cane to walk, as an abusive husband who would strike his wife with his canes and beat her during drunken outbursts.

Defense Attorney George Curtis said after sentencing that sending Mrs. Eagan, a gray-haired factory worker who is going blind, to prison was cruel and compounded the family’s tragedy.

″I feel this lady has gone through hell and doesn’t deserve another minute of it. She was a helpless victim,″ Curtis said. ″I’m really sorry Virginia Eagan is going off to a new prison.″

District Attorney Joseph Paulus said Eagan’s death ″seems to have fallen to the wayside in these proceedings.″

″The jury’s verdict certainly did not excuse the defendant’s behavior,″ he said.

Mrs. Eagan was originally charged with first-degree reckless homicide, which carried a maximum 20-year prison sentence, but the jury convicted her on the lesser charge, which carries a maximum five-year penalty.

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