By Patricia Adams
Last week The Forum brought you the first part of an interview with Barbara Sheehan, accused of shooting her husband, retired NYPD Sgt. Raymond Sheehan in February of 2008.
Now Sheehan is facing a murder trial and because of one judge’s ruling, will have to do so without the benefit of expert testimony to demonstrate the extent of the physical and mental abuse she suffered from for almost twenty years.
This week, Barbara Sheehan recalls her life as an abused woman and explains what happened on the day she shot her husband.
I SHOT MY HUSBAND
“I shot him because he was going to kill me. Finally he was going to end it all and shoot me. So I shot him.” Barbara Sheehan says that on the morning she killed Ray Sheehan he had been in the bathroom shaving, one of his handguns resting on the sink next to him. They had been arguing since the night before.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
“We went up to see my son at school. I brought him chicken cutlets and returned some laundry.” But as soon as they got in the car to leave Sacred Heart College, Ray Sheehan turned, without notice, and delivered a blow to her face that immediately sent blood gushing from her nose and pain shooting through her head. “I thought right away that it [my nose] was broken. There was so much blood and it hurt so much.” And Barbara says, “It didn’t stop there. He tried to throw me out of the car on the Merritt Parkway.”
Barbara Sheehan continued. “I was afraid to get out of the car. It was a wooded area and I was bleeding so much. No one was around.” All she wanted was to get home and go to the hospital. After arguing on the side of the road Ray Sheehan gunned the car back on to the parkway and headed toward home.
But the rest of the ride was filled with more verbal abuse, slaps, punches, pinches and anything else Ray Sheehan could manage from behind the wheel of the moving car. This episode had been brought on because Barbara had told her husband that she would not accompany him on a trip to Florida scheduled for the next morning.
“I was afraid to go away with him - to be alone with him in another state. My sister-in-law warned me not to go — she said he was going to kill me.” The sister-in-law she spoke of was married to Sheehan’s twin brother. The couple knew of Ray’s abuse and had gotten Barbara information on a domestic violence hotline and some support groups where she could go for help.
When they arrived home, Barbara was covered in blood--the cartilage from her nose displaced and moved completely over to one side. “I looked in the mirror and saw my whole nose on the side of my face. I just wanted to go to the hospital.”
But Ray Sheehan refused to take her. “I got my coat and left the house. I was going to walk to the hospital.” And on her way down the street Barbara used her cell phone to call her sister-in-law. “She told me to get out of here as quickly as possible, that Ray would probably be enraged because I had left.” As she hurried away, she heard the sound of a speeding car coming toward her — she turned and saw Ray Sheehan in their car. “I have to go,” she screamed into the phone, “he’s coming for me.”
Screeching to a halt, he pulled up and demanded she get into the car. They drove to St. John’s Hospital on Queens Boulevard. “He told me to get out and that he was going to wait right there. He wasn’t going in with me and warned me to keep my mouth shut.”
Inside the hospital Barbara Sheehan waited for treatment, but within a few minutes of her arrival, the cell phone began to ring. “He was calling to say that if he saw any police pull up he would know that I had called them. If that happened he said, hewould leave and go kill my family. ‘You know I have the guns with me—if you open your mouth, I’ll go out in a blaze of glory and your family will be dead.’”
Over and over her phone rang or beeped with text messages. Numerous calls and texts with more threats about keeping silent or paying the consequences. Finally when she grew too afraid to continue waiting for treatment, Barbara Sheehan left the hospital and returned to the car.
The next morning the arguing continued, her husband infuriated over her refusal to go to Florida. “He was in the bathroom with one of his guns on the sink next to him. He was so angry because of Florida. And I knew. I just knew he was going to kill me.” It was then she says that he picked up the gun to threaten her. Barbara Sheehan ran into the bedroom where she grabbed another of Ray’s handguns.
“I came out of the bedroom with the gun. I wanted to get downstairs and get out of the house.” But Raymond Sheehan saw his wife heading for the stairs. Gun in hand, he turned and aimed it at her. “I knew he was going to shoot me and I just started firing.”
Media reports have consistently made inaccurate claims that she emptied 11 shots into the back of her husband, however, the autopsy report clearly proves that Raymond Sheehan was not shot in the back--the entry wounds were from the side of his body, consistent with Barbara’s story that he turned toward her aiming his gun.
After a documented history of almost twenty years of being beaten, Barbara Sheehan shot her husband. Ray Sheehan dropped to the floor; he was dead. Barbara Sheehan was downstairs on the phone. She called her sister, Robin, who arrived at the house minutes later. She found Barbara on the floor huddled in a fetal position. Robin called 911.
LOOKING TOWARD TRIAL
According to Barbara Sheehan’s attorneys, psychiatrists, psychologists and national experts on domestic violence all agree that those with little to no personal exposure to domestic violence are likely not capable of comprehending the harm which these abusers repeatedly levy on their victims.
Those unfamiliar with domestic abuse are most often unaware that this abuse devastates its victims with induced trauma on the emotional, psychological and physical levels. Typically, it is through the testimony and shared experience of expert witnesses that jurors can gain insight to the typical lives of abusers and their abused.
When Barbara Sheehan stands trial for her husband’s murder, she will have to do so without the benefit of such witnesses due to a ruling handed down in early November by Justice Arthur Cooperman. The ruling prohibits the inclusion of expert psychological and psychiatric testimony.
Now attorney Michael Dowd will search for a mechanism to overturn Cooperman’s decision — or find a way to bring a defense as strong as that which has been disallowed by the judge. “We’re in trouble here... what I don’t want is this terrific lady to go to prison,” said Dowd, “and be forced to stay there while we fight for an appeal. There is no reason for that. All we want is the right to present the evidence. We’re only asking for a fair trial by jury.”
“When I think of life before, I just stop and try to think of life now. It’s so much better. I am safe. I may go to prison. But my kids and my family they are safe.” Then Barbara Sheehan comments on the irony. “Ray always told me that I could never escape him. He used to say that the ADA’s and the judges and the police ‘they all stick together Barbara.’ Now I see he was right—it’s as though he were reaching out from the grave.”
Photos: More than 400 rounds of ammunition recovered by police from Raymond Sheehan’s nightstand following his death. Following Raymond Sheehan’s death, investigators found evidence of his perverse sexual encounters with transvestites and crossdressers. Among things recovered were costumes (as shown above) and records of meetings with she-male sex partners discovered on the hard drive of his computer.