LINCOLN COUNTRY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A woman from Waldoboro has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for murder.
Arline Lawless pleaded guilty to killing Norman Benner, Jr., last summer in the house where she lived. Judge Jeffrey Hjelm called it "domestic violence murder".
Benner's mother, sister and other relatives filled the courtroom, and described Benner as a loving and fun- loving person, who died because he tried to help Lawless. Benner's mother, Dawn Benner, said she always had a bad feeling about Lawless, and said "Normie" told her he wanted to get away from Lawless and break off their relationship, but the woman wouldn't allow it.
Police say Lawless shot Benner in the head with a pistol as he lay in bed. They say she then apparently tried to kill herself, but was only wounded. Benner's mother and sister found them in bed, together, two days after the shooting.
Lawless originally pleaded "not criminally responsible" for the killing because of her mental condition, but later changed her plea to guilty, in exchange for the 35 year sentence. Lawless' attorney, Philip Cohen, told NEWS CENTER Lawless has had mental health problems since being injured in an auto accident at age 14. But Cohen said he advised her to take the guilty plea. Assistant Attorney general Deb Cashman, who prosecuted the case, told NEWS CENTER she agrees Lawless has mental problems, but does not believe they are the reason she killed Benner. In court, Justice Hjelm said Lawless had planned the killing in advance, even borrowing a gun to commit the crime. And he said Lawless had acted out of jealousy and a desire to control Benner so he could not have a relationship with anyone else.
Benner's family said the 35-year sentence wasn't long enough . They said Lawless is "evil". Lawless did not speak, and no one else spoke on her behalf. Her lawyer says Lawless has never explained her reasons for shooting Benner.