TAMPA — When Dennis Gallagher, 61, tried to kill his former wife in March, he filled a metal pipe from Home Depot with BB pellets and slipped on a jockstrap with a cup "to protect his groin area from attack," deputies said.
He failed to kill her and was convicted in July of attempted murder.
On Friday, begging a judge for leniency, Gallagher quoted from Abraham Lincoln's letter to the mother of five sons killed in the Civil War, labeled himself a coward, said he'd had only three traffic tickets in his life and that he'd voted in every presidential election since 1972. He also said he needs a heart transplant and might die in prison.
His ex-wife said if he ever got out, he would come back and kill their three children.
The couple had been married for 25 years. Nancy Gallagher, 46, divorced him in 2008. She said he had threatened to kill her if she ever left him.
She told detectives that on March 17 he asked to come by her home in Carrollwood Village to tell her about his sick brother.
Standing in the bedroom, he asked her for a hug.
"I hugged him," she said.
"He then said, 'I'm sorry,' and pinned my neck with his elbow while he hit me with a metal pipe in the head."
She swept his legs out from under him and they both fell in the closet. He dropped the pipe but grabbed a 3-pound dumbbell and kept hitting her.
Their oldest daughter rushed to help her mother, and Gallagher gave up the attack, exhausted.
On Friday, he quoted Lincoln's 1864 letter to the grieving mother "Mrs. Bixby":
"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming."
Gallagher said he also had written down 20 words for sorry but wouldn't repeat them all. "I am not a beast," he said.
Nancy Gallagher testified that she knew him better than anyone after 25 years of marriage.
"He has absolutely no remorse," she said. "He's made no attempt to apologize to the children. I have no doubt that if he gets out, he'll attempt to murder the children and commit suicide."
Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Emmett Battles then sentenced Gallagher to 25 years for attempted first-degree murder with a weapon and to a concurrent 25-year term for aggravated battery with a weapon.
Afterward, Nancy Gallagher said she'd hoped for a life sentence, but she was satisfied.
"I feel safe now."
John Barry can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.