BROOKSVILLE — A woman accused of fatally shooting her husband in the head as he lay sleeping on the couch of their Spring Hill home has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
Karen Lyn Biraghi, 41, entered an open guilty plea last week to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. Biraghi had been charged with murder in the first degree after calling 911 on Christmas Eve 2011 to report that she had shot 31-year-old Alan Biraghi in the head.
Had she been convicted at trial, Biraghi faced a mandatory life sentence. The open plea to second-degree murder means she will serve a minimum of 25 years, but Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. could also levy a life term at the sentencing hearing, slated for March 28.
"After discussing it with law enforcement and the victim's mother, we felt this was an appropriate disposition," said Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino.
Magrino previously said he did not pursue the death penalty because "the facts and circumstances do not rise to the level" of a capital murder case.
The state attorney's concession to a lesser charge is appreciated, said Biraghi's attorney, Larry C. Hoffman.
Hoffman tried unsuccessfully to get prosecutors to agree to a maximum cap on the sentence. He said he will ask Merritt to levy the minimum sentence, citing his client's litany of mental health issues.
"It's in the hands of the judge, and we're trusting him to make a wise decision based on what he's going to hear," Hoffman said.
According to a motion Hoffman filed in Hernando Circuit Court late last year, Biraghi suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She also abused alcohol, was dependent on other substances, suffers from bulimia and has a history of suicidal thoughts.
Hoffman plans to call a forensic psychologist to testify at the sentencing hearing. Biraghi will probably take the stand, too, he said.
"She has deep remorse," he said.
Court documents portray Biraghi as a lonely woman who sought affection elsewhere — and became increasingly angry and despondent — as her decade-long 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 a house on Greynolds Avenue in Spring Hill about three years before Alan's death. By 2010, records show, Karen was corresponding with men she met online, complaining that Alan didn't make her feel wanted. She sought to arrange meetings with the men.
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.
Alan Biraghi worked at a Pasco County air-conditioning company, and both he and his wife delivered newspapers for what is now the Tampa Bay Times.
About a month before his death, Alan Biraghi and a co-worker struck up a friendship that quickly progressed, the woman told investigators. They decided he would move into her Spring Hill home on Dec. 26. Alan Biraghi got a second cellphone to keep the relationship secret.
On Dec. 20, Alan Biraghi admitted to his wife that there was more to the relationship than she knew.
The next morning, Karen Biraghi went to a pawnshop and placed 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. Dec. 24, Alan Biraghi sent a text to the woman with whom he planned to move in, telling her he loved her. 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 and discovered the romantic text messages. She retrieved the gun from the bedroom and loaded it with six bullets.
In an interview with a Hernando sheriff's detective later that day, she said she held the gun and considered her next move.
"She said she knew if she shot Alan, he would die and her life would be over," the detective wrote in a report.
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 the 911 operator asked her why, she said: "Because I have been suffering years of mental and verbal abuse and I just felt like I've reached the end."
Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.