DADE CITY — As she clutched the gunshot wound in her neck, her husband sitting next to her, still armed, Sylvia Denise Grant was sure she was going to die.
She wondered who would take care of her children and how her mother would be able to bear attending her funeral.
Now, three years later, her wounds healed and her husband brought to justice, Grant came to this conclusion about the man who tried to kill her: "Dying by your hands was not the plan that God has for me."
Grant, 36, did not come to court Thursday, where Joseph Coleman was being sentenced in the 2006 attack in Lacoochee. Her sister, Linda Hambrick, read a letter Grant wrote to her ex-husband.
Coleman, 56, was convicted last month of attempted second-degree murder and kidnapping. Grant testified that he burst into her house that morning and shoved a pistol in her mouth. As they struggled, the gun went off, striking Grant in the throat and shoulder. Coleman put Grant in their van to go for help, but then turned the wrong direction and told her he was going to drive around until she bled to death.
Grant jumped from the moving van and was rescued by a phone company worker nearby.
Because of Coleman's prior record, Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa could only give him one sentence: life in prison.
But first, he had to hear the words of his ex-wife, describing the terror he put her through the morning of May 2, 2006. Grant, who is the sister of former Pasco High and NFL football player Darren Hambrick, still speaks with a raspy voice from the attack.
"The fear, the panic, the pain and the uncertainty of whether I was going to live is something that still haunts me," her letter said.
"For the life of me I cannot understand why I loved you."
Recalling Coleman's promise to let her slowly bleed to death, Grant turned his words on him, writing, "I hope you slowly wither in jail until you die."
Authorities say Coleman had a history of abusing his wife, though until this incident she never cooperated with them. He had also served time in prison on charges including aggravated battery, sale of cocaine and aggravated stalking.
Despite his violent past, Coleman was cooperative and congenial during his trial, a dichotomy that caught the judge's notice.
"You are truly a mystery to me," Siracusa told him. "Here in court you are probably one of the most polite people I've ever had sit through a trial.
"But you have a lifetime of crime on your record, and this is the retirement for a lifetime of crime."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6985.