BRENTWOOD, N.H. — A woman who claimed she was an angel sent from God to punish pedophiles was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole for killing two boyfriends whose remains were found scattered around her New Hampshire farm.
A jury yesterday found Sheila LaBarre was sane when she committed the murders. Since she already had admitted that the state could prove her guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, the jury's only task during the five-week trial was determining whether she was insane when she killed Michael Deloge in 2005 and Kenneth Countie in 2006.
As the jury filed out after the verdict, family members of the victims burst into applause.
"This is for my son," said Countie's mother, Carolynn Lodge. "(For) two years, my son could not rest. Now he can rest."
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Denner said he plans to file an appeal.
"It continues to be our belief that she's deeply crazy and insane," he said. "We also understand there's a huge amount of emotion in this case that clouds this issue."
The jury returned its verdict about 13 hours after deliberations began Thursday morning.
The burden of proof was on the defense to show both that LaBarre, 49, of Epping, suffered from a mental disease and that the murders were a product of that illness. Defense lawyers argued that LaBarre was a delusional woman who believed every man in her life was a pedophile and who saw herself as an avenging angel. But the prosecution countered that she was a "crude, manipulative, cruel and vindictive" woman who violently lashed out at the men she dated.
Dr. Albert Drukteinis, the state's forensic psychologist, testified that he believed LaBarre was sane, based on reviewing more than 8,000 pages in the case file, interviewing LaBarre three times and spending more than 12 hours with her. He said her intense anger, obsession with pedophilia and paranoia are signs of mood and personality disorders that are severe enough to cause her to be psychotic at times, but there was not enough evidence to show a mental illness caused LaBarre to commit her crimes.
"She answered questions well, she tried to explain evidence away that made her look bad. This is not what someone sees over many hours in a person who is psychotic," Drukteinis testified.
In a taped interview with Drukteinis played in court, LaBarre said she was driven to kill Deloge because he was hurting and killing her animals. In a separate interview, she said Countie's death was an accident and that she cremated him not to cover up a crime, but to keep his mother from ever seeing the body again.
Jurors also heard some of the hundreds of tape recordings LaBarre made of herself, some of which featured her interrogating or berating her victims. Malcolm Rogers, a forensic psychologist who testified for the defense, said those tapes illustrated that LaBarre has either a schizophrenic affect disorder or a delusional disorder, which caused her to mistakenly believe the men were pedophiles and to kill them.
Rogers also said LaBarre believes she once died of a drug overdose but was sent back to Earth as an angel with special powers, which explains the grandiose manner in which she speaks on the tapes.
Countie, 24, met LaBarre through a personal ad in February 2006. He moved in with her soon after and was last seen alive that March, being pushed by LaBarre in a wheelchair at Wal-Mart, his face and hands covered with cuts. A few days later, when police went to LaBarre's home to check on him, they found her tending a burning pile of trash containing what later was identified as Countie's bones.
She was arrested about a week later and charged with Countie's death. Though police suspected her in Deloge's disappearance as well, she was not officially connected to his death until she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to both deaths in February.
Countie's mother described her son as someone who trusted others easily and believed he was starting a new life with LaBarre.
"Sheila LaBarre took advantage of my son, who was a kind, caring, gentle young man who could not socially defend himself," she said. "She was a master of evil who deliberately tortured him. Sheila LaBarre stripped my son of all his dignity and self worth, and in the end, she murdered him."
Had LaBarre been found insane, there would have been be a further hearing to determine whether she is dangerous and needs to be held in a secure facility. In that case, she would have been held at the state prison's psychiatric unit and her status would be reviewed by the court every five years.