Defense of Hernando wife accused of murder to focus on mental health

BROOKSVILLE — Four days before Christmas last year, Karen Biraghi sent a chilling text message to her friend.

By then, court documents show, Biraghi's husband of 11 years, Alan, had made it clear he would be leaving her for another woman.

"If I could kill the s.o.b. I would!" Karen Biraghi said in the text message.

On Christmas Eve, authorities say, she did. Biraghi shot her 31-year-old husband in the back of the head as he lay sleeping on the couch in their Spring Hill home.

Biraghi, 40, now faces a first-degree murder charge, and according to a motion filed in Hernando Circuit Court last month, her attorneys will mount a defense based on a litany of mental health issues.

Biraghi suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, the motion states; she also abuses alcohol and is dependent on other substances.

According to the filing by Larry Hoffman, one of Biraghi's attorneys, she also suffers from bulimia and has a history of suicidal thoughts, including the day she called 911 to report that she'd shot her husband.

Hoffman declined on Wednesday to elaborate on his client's mental health issues or comment in general on the case, which is still in the discovery phase. A status hearing is set for Jan. 18.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said his office is not seeking the death penalty.

"The facts and circumstances do not rise to the level that would warrant the affirming of the death penalty," Magrino said.

Court documents portray Biraghi as a lonely woman who sought affection elsewhere — and became increasingly angry and despondent — as her marriage turned cold.

When the couple married, Alan Biraghi adopted Karen's then-8-year-old daughter. The daughter would later tell investigators that her mother's first husband cheated on her with another man. She said her mother was so distrustful of Alan Biraghi that she activated parental controls on his cellphone so she could keep track of his calls.

They moved to the house on Greynolds Avenue about three years before Alan's death. By 2010, records show, Karen was corresponding with men she met online and seeking to arrange meetings.

In one electronic exchange, when a man asked if she was married, she replied: "yup, 10 years and it seems everything is more important than me. He doesn't make me feel desired or wanted anymore."

By the summer of that year, records show, she was in the midst of an affair. It's unclear how long the affair lasted or when it ended.

A week before the killing, records show, Biraghi had a sexual encounter with a neighbor. The man would later tell detectives that they had sex one time and exchanged text messages after but that he had no plans to start a relationship with her.

Alan Biraghi worked at a Pasco County air-conditioning firm, and both he and his wife delivered newspapers for what is now the Tampa Bay Times.

About a month before his death, he and a co-worker struck up a friendship. The woman, who was also married but separated, told investigators she had known Alan for years but hesitated to befriend him because Karen was so jealous.

The friendship progressed quickly "to a very emotional connection," the woman told investigators. They decided he would move in to her Spring Hill home on Dec. 26. To keep the romantic relationship secret, Alan Biraghi got a second cellphone.

Karen Biraghi was suspicious. On Dec. 20, Alan Biraghi told his wife that there was more to the relationship than she knew. Karen Biraghi called the woman.

"She was distraught and very upset," the woman told detectives, "because she said she just wanted another chance."

The next morning, Karen Biraghi went to a pawnshop and put a down payment on a .38 caliber handgun. She told investigators later that she bought the gun because her husband was mentally and verbally abusive and that he scared her.

About 3 a.m. on Dec. 24, Alan Biraghi sent a text to the woman he planned to move in with: "I love u, i am a lucky man to have u, thank u." He finished his paper route, returned home and fell asleep on the couch.

While he slept, Karen Biraghi left the house, returned to the pawnshop and picked up the gun, records show. Authorities say she returned, found her husband's second cellphone in his car and discovered the romantic text messages, retrieved the gun from the bedroom and loaded it with six bullets.

In an interview with Hernando sheriff's Detective James Boylan later that day, she said she held the gun and considered her next move.

"She said she knew if she shot Alan," Boylan wrote, "he would die and her life would be over."

After about an hour, she said, she walked up to the couch, aimed the gun at the back of her husband's head, and pulled the trigger.

When she called 911 and admitted what she done, the operator asked her why.

"Because I have been suffering years of mental and verbal abuse," she said, "and I just felt like I've reached the end."

Times news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.

Defense of Hernando wife accused of murder to focus on mental health 11/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:30pm]

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