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Spring Hill woman who shot her sleeping husband gets life in prison

BROOKSVILLE — Before she shot her husband in the head as he lay sleeping on the couch on Christmas Eve 2011, Karen Biraghi thought about what would happen if she went through with it. She told investigators later that she knew his life would be over and that hers would be, too.

The 41-year-old Spring Hill woman learned Thursday that she was right.

At the end of an emotional two-hour hearing, Hernando Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. sentenced Biraghi to life in prison for the murder of Alan Biraghi, 31.

Charged with first-degree murder, Biraghi pleaded guilty in January to the lesser charge of murder in the second degree. Sentencing guidelines called for a minimum prison term of 25 years and a maximum of life.

Merritt noted that he has sentenced half a dozen defendants to life in prison over the past 28 months.

"This defendant is at least as deserving, and in the judgment of the court, more so, of the same treatment," Merritt said. "Ma'am, I hope you do find some good purpose in your incarceration."

Earlier, Biraghi sobbed as she apologized by speakerphone to her former mother-in-law, Rosemary Biraghi, who was on the line from England.

"There's nothing I can say that will make a difference, but I'm really sorry," Biraghi said. "I wish this never happened, and I have to live with this every day for the rest of my life."

"It's okay, Karen," Rosemary Biraghi replied. "I accept your apology. I will pray for you."

Biraghi's attorneys, J. Jason Bangos and Larry Hoffman, asked Merritt to levy the minimum sentence, in large part due to a litany of mental health issues. Biraghi told Merritt she wanted to have another chance to be a mother to her 22-year-old daughter.

"I want additional help, and I want to be there for my daughter," she said.

Valerie McClain, a licensed clinical psychologist, testified that Biraghi suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and bulimia. McClain said Biraghi has the coping skills of an adolescent due to physical and sexual abuse suffered during childhood by neighbors and cousins and, later, by her first husband. Biraghi also abused alcohol and pain pills, McClain said.

During cross examination by Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, McClain acknowledged that Biraghi knew the difference between right and wrong.

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. 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. By the summer of that year, she was in the midst of an affair. 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 the Tampa Bay Times. About a month before his death, Alan Biraghi and a female co-worker struck up a friendship that quickly progressed. 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, he 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 revolver. She told investigators later that she bought the gun because her husband was mentally and verbally abusive and that he scared her.

On the stand Thursday, she said she planned to use the gun to commit suicide.

"Nothing mattered to me anymore," she said.

About 3 a.m. Dec. 24, Alan Biraghi sent a text to the other woman, 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 came home, 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 detective later that day, she said she held the gun and considered her next move. After about an hour, she said, she walked up to the couch, aimed the gun at her husband's head and pulled the trigger. Then she went to her parents' house and told them what she had done. They all returned and Biraghi called 911.

When the operator asked her why she shot her husband, she said: "Because I have been suffering years of mental and verbal abuse, and I just felt like I've reached the end."

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Spring Hill woman who shot her sleeping husband gets life in prison 03/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 7:26pm]
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