Man gets 18-month term for killing unfaithful wife

October 18, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons and Michael James | Sheridan Lyons and Michael James,Sun Staff Writers

Calling the crime an act of understandable rage provoked by a woman's infidelity, a Baltimore County judge yesterday sentenced a Parkton trucker to 18 months in jail with work release for fatally shooting his wife after finding her in bed with another man.

Kenneth Lee Peacock, 36, shot Sandra Kaye Sloan Peacock, 31, once in the head with a hunting rifle on Feb. 9 after he arrived home unexpectedly during a winter storm, prosecutors said. Ms. Peacock's lover fled the house unharmed.

Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill said he couldn't think of a situation that would provoke "an uncontrollable rage greater than this: for someone who is happily married to be betrayed in your personal life, when you're out working to support the spouse."

Such a rage would be almost unmanageable -- even without the alcohol, said Judge Cahill, referring to beer and wine that Peacock drank after interrupting the pair.

"I seriously wonder how many married men -- married five, four years -- would have the strength to walk away without inflicting some corporal punishment," he said.

But he added, "I am forced to impose a sentence . . . only because I think I must do it to make the system honest. I have no question in my mind that no judge of the circuit will ever see Kenneth Peacock again."

But the judge's words drew ire from Judith A. Wolfer, an area lawyer who has lobbied for domestic violence issues. She said the judge's decision sends out a dangerous message.

"Until judges start treating a homicide of a spouse as any other homicide, men are going to continue to kill their wives with impunity for reasons of jealousy, control, or rage. You name it, they'll use it," Ms. Wolfer said. "You don't kill someone because they betrayed your trust . . . This judge is excusing this behavior by giving this lenient sentence."

She also questioned whether Peacock should have been allowed to plead to manslaughter, since court documents showed he did not kill his wife right away but rather had drank beer and wine, and argued with the woman for several hours before shooting her.

"Once you have time to reflect you have lost the manslaughter. If he had time to sit down and have a drink before he shot his wife, that is no different than an execution," Ms. Wolfer said.

Peacock, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Assistant State's Attorney Michael G. DeHaven had asked for a sentence within the three to eight-year guidelines, citing Peacock's lack of criminal record.

He said Ms. Peacock's mother had mixed feelings about the case because she sympathized with her son-in-law.

Citing other cases, he said prosecutors agreed to the plea bargain in August because the provocation and the alcohol created a rage.

"Because we believe he acted in this anger, without sufficient time to cool down, the state agreed to accept his guilty plea to manslaughter," Mr. DeHaven said. "On the other hand, he took a human life, so we sought incarceration in the Department of Corrections within the [sentencing] guidelines."

Peacock had been on the road the night of the killing and had called his wife to say he wouldn't be home because of the icy roads, the prosecutor said. But he was able to make it to the home, in the 20700 block of Old York Road, despite the storm.

After driving the other man out of the house at gunpoint, Peacock drank beer and wine, argued with his wife, then shot her about 4 a.m., Mr. DeHaven said.

Peacock is to serve 18 months of a three-year term at the county Detention Center, with home detention if jail authorities decide it is appropriate, and a one-year probation. Judge Cahill said he had verified that Peacock would be allowed work release with his employer.

He also told Peacock to perform 50 hours of service for the domestic violence program, "which could be spent allowing his dreadful and tragic experience to help others."

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