TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman who won a new trial after being sentenced to life in prison for convincing her 10-year-old adopted son to kill his father entered a plea to lesser charges.
A judge sentenced Judith Hawkey last week to 10 years in prison, including the more than five she already has served.
Hawkey, 52, had been scheduled to go on trial this week in the mysterious 2003 shooting death of her husband. But instead, she entered an Alford plea to involuntary manslaughter and child endangering charges.
The plea means she did not admit guilt, but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her. Hawkey’s attorney declined to comment.
A state appeals court in 2016 ordered a second trial for Hawkey because it said testimony shouldn’t have been allowed from three witnesses.
Defiance County Prosecutor Morris Murray said Tuesday that he agreed to the plea deal because he wanted to make sure his office secured a conviction tying Hawkey to her husband’s death.
"We felt strongly she was definitely involved and had a substantial influence over the child," he said. "There was no question this was not an accidental shooting."
Several factors, including the appeals court ruling, would have made getting a second conviction more difficult, he said.
The appeals court judges said there was enough evidence for a conviction at Hawkey’s first trial, but they also called the case a not overwhelming one — saying everything originated from her adopted son, Corey Breininger.
It was the son who came home from elementary school in 2003 and fired the shot that killed his father, Robert Breininger, at their house outside Defiance, near the Indiana state line.
The shooting initially was ruled an accident and stayed that way for nearly a decade until Corey Breininger told a former teacher, and then investigators, that Hawkey persuaded him to kill his father because he was dying and to make it look like an accident.
Corey Breininger was never charged in the case.
A jury convicted Hawkey of aggravated murder and insurance fraud in 2013. Authorities had concluded that Hawkey used the boy to kill her husband and collect a $500,000 insurance payout, noting later that she had started the paperwork the day after the shooting.
But Hawkey’s attorneys argued there were many inconsistencies in Corey Breininger’s story.
Among the issues raised was that he told an investigator that Hawkey had beaten him for years and that she had tried to kill him several times.
Hawkey’s former defense attorney said that a social worker who visited the house before the shooting saw no signs of abuse and that medical records did not back up those claims.
Before Hawkey was sentenced in 2013, she said Corey Breininger shot his father because they had decided to send him to a military school and he didn’t want to go.
"He made up the whole story," she said then. "I will be back for another time because I did not do this."