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Woman gets 2{ years for fatal battery

On the surface, the facts were straightforward: A jury found Kathy Wekwert, 41, guilty of brutally kicking Roy Ethridge Jr. in the head. He ended up dead. Sentencing guidelines called for her to receive a prison term of 4{ to 15 years.

But Circuit Judge Michael Andrews knew the underlying details of the case weren't clear-cut.

Ultimately, he said, there were two victims the night Wekwert and Ethridge crossed paths. The defendant was one of them.

"This is a tragedy brought on by a tragedy," Andrews said during Wekwert's sentencing hearing Thursday morning.

One day after Wekwert was convicted of aggravated battery, the judge showed leniency by sentencing her to 2{ years in prison, followed by 1 year of community control and 2 years of probation.

She also will have to pay $3,445 to Ethridge's family for his funeral expenses.

A judge can depart from sentencing guidelines when the victim provoked or initiated an incident.

In this case, Andrews explained, Wekwert was justifiably afraid after Ethridge, a 47-year-old stranger, approached her in the dark, grabbed her arm and cursed at her as she was entering her boyfriend's Holiday Lake Estates home on Aug. 27, 2003.

In the altercation that resulted, Wekwert and her boyfriend, Thomas Fox, repeatedly kicked and punched Ethridge in the head. Wekwert's defense team argued the couple had acted in self-defense.

Prosecutors agreed, to a point. They didn't charge Fox for that very reason, but they say Wekwert went too far when she walked away from the situation and then returned to kick Ethridge again.

He died of brain injuries days later. The state couldn't determine who delivered the death blow, so Wekwert was charged only with aggravated battery.

Andrews said Wekwert had no way of knowing that Ethridge's cursing and poor balance were the result of a 1978 head-on motorcycle crash that left him "ungovernable and mentally ill." Nor could anyone know what might have happened had Fox not intervened, he said.

Joy Wekwert told Andrews that her sister's reaction also might have been influenced by another tragedy. In 1976, when Kathy Wekwert was 13, three men tied up and killed the women's 15-year-old sister in a New Jersey park, she said.

Colleen Jenkins covers courts in west Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6236. Her e-mail address is