BROOKSVILLE — For Lee-Anne Shoeman's family members — her father, brother, sisters and daughter — a sentencing hearing last week put a 2-year-old murder case to rest.
Jerome Sheridan, 51, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to killing Shoeman, a schoolteacher, in their Spring Hill home in May 2014. Following the terms of Sheridan's open plea agreement, Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. gave Sheridan the maximum sentence.
Sheridan did not speak at his May 19 sentencing hearing, which was, almost to the day, two years after the murder.
By entering an open plea agreement, Sheridan agreed to have his sentence determined by a judge rather than a jury — a route often pursued by defendants when case facts are clear, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said.
Devon Sharkey, the assistant public defender who represented Sheridan, said a psychologist who examined his client had found significant mental health problems. They were not severe enough to support an insanity defense, Sharkey said, but he thought they justified a sentence near the bottom of the 50-year range to which he and Magrino had agreed.
"We felt it was a strong mitigator," Sharkey said of the psychological evidence. "Apparently, the judge disagreed."
After the hearing, Magrino said Shoeman's family agreed with the sentence.
"The victim's family was amenable," he said. "They basically wanted to ensure he doesn't get released from prison."
Given Sheridan's age, Magrino said, he likely will die in prison.
Shoeman, 55, was an English teacher at Central High School, west of Brooksville.
When she did not show up for work, the school's secretary called both Shoeman and a family member. A deputy showed up and found Shoeman dead in her home.
Deputies quickly identified Sheridan as a "person of interest" and found him early that morning in Hillsborough County with self-inflicted wounds.
He initially was charged with first-degree murder, but agreed to plea to a charge of second-degree murder.
Several of Shoeman's colleagues from Central High attended last week's sentencing hearing to support the family.
Staff writer Dan DeWitt contributed to this report. Contact Hannah Alani at [email protected] or (813) 909-4617. Follow @hannahalani.