OAKLAND - Gloria Crutchfield had dreaded this day for almost four years.
Since January 1987, the 37-year-old former Mount Airy resident had been in a kind of limbo, first awaiting trial on charges that she had murdered her live-in boyfriend, then waiting for a Garrett County judge to hand down her sentence.
Crutchfield's case never went to trial because she entered an Alford plea to manslaughter in September to avoid a murder conviction. But Wednesday, Garrett Circuit Judge Fred A. Thayer sentenced her to serve four years in the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women at Jessup.
"It's been four years, and I've been sorry every day of my life," a tearful Crutchfield told Thayer before he sentenced her. "I can't tell you how everything happened that night, but I can say that I knew with my whole soul that I was going to be killed."
Crutchfield was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her boyfriend, 46-year-old William Richard Lawrence.
She maintains that the shooting took place during a confrontation with Lawrence, after he lunged at her with a knife. Crutchfield says that she was battered by Lawrence on several occasions and was driven to shoot him because she thought her life was in danger during their argument.
Crutchfield was scheduled to go to trial on the murder charge on Sept.
24 in Garrett County. She had asked that the case be moved from Carroll to this rural community because of extensive publicity that surrounded her indictment.
But instead of going ahead with the trial, she decided to enter an Alford plea to manslaughter. With the Alford plea, she acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to convict her, but did not admit guilt.
She faced life imprisonment if convicted on the murder charge. Under the plea agreement, Crutchfield faced up to 10 years in prison.
The September trial was to be Crutchfield's second. Her first, in March 1988, ended in a mistrial when jurors heard state police testimony about statements she made to officers before she was advised of her rights.
Benjamin Lipsitz, Crutchfield's Baltimore attorney, asked Thayer to have mercy on his client and asked him to "fashion a jail sentence for this woman to come out a better person than she goes in."
Lipsitz -- who also defended Albert Bremer, the man who shot Alabama Gov. George Wallace in Laurel during the 1972 presidential campaign -- used a quote from the Old Testament's Book of Zachariah in asking for leniency.
" 'Execute true judgment and show mercy and compassion to every man and his brother,' " Lipsitz read.
In response to Lipsitz's plea, Thayer said, "I am not a biblical scholar, but the Bible also says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' " In handing down the four-year sentence, Thayer said he thought the Crutchfield case should make everyone involved "more aware of the extent of spousal abuse."
During the sentencing hearing, both Lipsitz and Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman presented psychologists as witnesses.
Lois J. Veronen, a clinical psychologist from South Carolina who interviewed and tested Crutchfield on behalf of the defense, testified that Crutchfield was "victimized in her relationship with Bill Lawrence."
She said the victimization Crutchfield suffered affected her perception of the events surrounding Lawrence's death, and made her think he was going to kill her.
Veronen, who told the court she thought it was her role to "tell Gloria's story," said Crutchfield did not leave Lawrence because she cared for him.
"She loved Bill Lawrence," said Veronen, a specialist in crimes that victimize women. "When it wasn't violent, they had a very wonderful relationship."
University of Virginia psychologist Duey Cornell, who testified for the prosecution, disputed Veronen's method of evaluating the defendant.
He said Veronen's tests were not widely accepted in the field of forensic psychology and faulted her for not reviewing all of the records associated with the criminal case.
Neither Hickman nor Lipsitz would comment on the sentence. Hickman said Crutchfield could be out of jail in a little more than two years with parole.