Helen Irene Ansley will spend the next eight years of her life in a small prison cell.
Now, 72, the Thomson woman would be 80 if she serves that entire sentence -- one handed down against her by McDuffie County Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. last Wednesday.
The sentence was imposed immediately after a jury of eight women and four men found Mrs. Ansley guilty on three of five felony charges. Trial jurors returned guilty verdicts against her on the following charges: voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The convictions stem from the Jan. 30, 2008, shooting death of her 77-year-old husband, Fred Ansley. The shooting occurred at the couple's home on WhiteOak Road near Thomson. Mr. Ansley was shot once in the chest with a Ruger .22-caliber revolver.
Jurors found Mrs. Ansley not guilty on charges of malice murder and felony murder.
McDuffie County Superior Court Clerk Connie Cheatham read the jurors' verdicts aloud in court before Judge Dunaway thanked jurors for their time and discharged them from their duties. Many of them returned to the courtroom and listened to victim impact statements before the judge rendered his sentence in the case.
Missy Ansley, one of the daughter-in-laws of the late Fred Ansley, addressed the court.
"He was a good man and I loved him very much," Missy Ansley said of her father-in-law. Her husband, Robbie, is the youngest son of Fred Ansley.
Missy Ansley also said she loved Helen Ansley.
"I loved both of them," she said. "I just hate it came to this."
Despite many things coming out during the trial about Mr. Ansley's life, including the fact that he had a bad drinking habit, liked guns and threatened several people with those weapons over the years, "there was a good side of him, too," Missy Ansley said.
A friend of Helen Ansley made a one-sentence statement.
"She's been good to me," Jean Whitaker said.
Ms. Whitaker is a former live-in girlfriend of Mrs. Ansley's son, Steve Chaney.
A court bailiff escorted Mr. Chaney from the courtroom during closing arguments being given at the time by Toombs Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Rindi Harbeson last Wednesday morning. Mr. Chaney, who earlier had testified on behalf of his mother, said aloud the words, "lies, lies, lies," as Mrs. Harbeson was addressing jurors.
Two of Mr. Chaney's siblings, Pamela Brown and Jeff Chaney also testified as witnesses at their mother's trial. Neither of them attended the last day of the trial.
Immediately following the statements of Missy Ansley and Jean Whitaker, Judge Dunaway asked Helen Ansley if there was anything she would like to say to the court before he imposed sentencing.
In a soft-spoken voice, Mrs. Ansley replied, "No sir."
Judge Dunaway then informed her that the court had heard the evidence and would consider her age as a factor and the fact she never had a criminal record -- not even a traffic ticket -- in rendering what he said would be a fair sentence to her, the parties involved and the state.
He noted that alcohol played a large role in what ultimately led to Mr. Ansley's death, but that he had to consider that a human life was taken.
"It's difficult to balance a case like this, but I think I've come up with a fair sentence," Judge Dunaway said.
The judge sentenced Mrs. Ansley to serve eight years in confinement and the remainder of the 15 year sentence for voluntary manslaughter to be served on probation. He merged the aggravated assault conviction into the manslaughter charge and issued a five-year probated sentence on the conviction of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Judge Dunaway then remanded Mrs. Ansley into the custody of McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall. Mrs. Ansley was escorted from the courtroom to a waiting patrol car by Sheriff Marshall and Deputy Sgt. Mike Hobbs.