NEW PORT RICHEY — Anyone charged with a crime has the right to an attorney. But nothing says they have to listen to that attorney.
Peggy Sue Abbott didn't listen. She pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and agreed to spend 30 years in prison — against the wishes of her court-appointed defense attorney, Keith Hammond.
He wanted his client to go to trial and fight the charges that she took part in the 2005 burning, smothering, strangling, beating and suffocating of former beau Jerome Selby.
"This is one of the best insanity cases I have ever seen," Hammond told the judge.
Abbott, 40, was once diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and manic depression. She was first committed at age 13.
When Abbott came to court in August 2007 to take the same deal, she broke down in tears.
Circuit Judge Thane Covert declared her incompetent to stand trial then. But a stay in a mental hospital restored her to competency, the court said.
Despite her attorney's misgivings, Covert said Thursday he saw no reason to find that Abbott wasn't competent.
"Are you on medication for mental illness?" the judge asked.
"Yes," Abbott said. "I'm depressed."
Then she clarified: She wasn't giving up the right to a jury trial because of depression.
"No, I'm depressed because of this," she said.
She meant the 30 years in prison.
Abbott also told the judge she was "worn out."
But she still hoped to live her last days as a free woman. She has already spent three years in custody, and under state rules could be freed in her 60s.
But if she went to trial for first-degree murder and lost, she would have been looking at life in prison.
Her attorney said that Abbott feared "she would die alone in prison."
Hammond wanted her to turn the deal down. He thought Abbott could beat the rap if she employed two defenses: insanity (that Abbott didn't know what she was doing) and the battered spouse defense (that Abbott acted in self-defense after years of abuse).
"This goes hand-in-hand with the insanity defense," the attorney said after Thursday's hearing. "This is someone who doesn't think rationally to begin with."
Abbott had a daughter with Selby, the victim. They lived in Moon Lake with Melody Iris Samion.
After Selby abused Abbott, authorities say, she drugged his beer. Then Abbott enlisted the help of Samion in the murder.
They put a pillow over his face and strangled him with a bathing suit. They hit him on the head with a pot. They burned his nipples with a cigarette. They taped a bag around his neck and pinched his nose. They tied him up and debated what to do with the body.
Samion, who also faced life in prison, took the same 30 year deal in February 2007.
Selby's family agreed to both plea bargains.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.