Slain woman's mother resents 18-month term

October 29, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

The mother of Sandra Peacock wants the world to know that she loved her daughter -- killed by an angry husband who found her in bed with another man -- says she believes the killing was actually an accident, but an accident caused by alcohol, and she resents the light sentence he received from a Baltimore County judge.

Mary Lemon of Mount Pleasant, Texas, said Kenneth Peacock had threatened his wife with a gun once before during the couple's stormy, alcohol-ridden marriage.

Mrs. Lemon actually talked with her daughter and son-in-law during their final, deadly confrontation last February -- a few hours before a drunken Peacock shot his wife with a hunting rifle in their Parkton home.

"Sandra had called me at about 11 p.m. here [in Texas]," Mrs. Lemon said.

"Her voice was very emotional. She just said, 'Mom, I need to come home,' and I could hear Ken in the background saying, 'Tell her why.' . . . He took the phone and said, 'Mom, I came home and found her in bed with another man and she's lucky I'm letting her live to leave.'

"I said, well, there isn't anything I can do tonight. Call me tomorrow and we'll decide what to do."

Instead, she learned from a supervisor at work the next morning that her daughter was dead.

Kenneth Peacock told police that he shot his wife accidentally while he was toying with his hunting rifle after several hours of drinking and arguing.

Mrs. Lemon says she will believe the killing was an accident until someone proves otherwise.

"I really don't think he just out and out shot her," she said.

"The police told me that she was lying on a sofa like she was watching television." Had they been arguing, Mrs. Lemon said, "she'd have been up in his face."

While Mrs. Lemon said she believes her son-in-law's account, it wasn't the first time jealousy and guns threatened her daughter -- or the first time Peacock had caught her cheating.

"In about 1989, she said he had put a handgun to her head because he had found her with someone else," Mrs. Lemon said.

"He had the gun to her head for about five minutes, trying to decide whether to kill her or not. Why did she go back to him? Why? Why?"

Mrs. Lemon said she herself has been unfairly portrayed as an uncaring mother in the media storm that erupted last week when Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Sr. gave Peacock an 18-month work-release sentence on his guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter, well below the three-to eight-year range calculated under Maryland's sentencing guidelines.

She said she did not appear at the Oct. 17 sentencing in Towson because she did not want to upset Sandra Peacock's 13-year-old son by a previous marriage, who lives in Texas with her.

Mrs. Lemon said she thought the prosecution's three- to eight-year sentence recommendation was fair and she didn't realize that sentencing guidelines aren't binding on Maryland judges.

Judge Cahill's comment that he could understand a husband's rage in this situation upset women's groups, but not Mrs. Lemon.

"It's the sentence that upsets me," she said. "Her life wasn't important to anybody except us. What was my daughter's life worth?"

The judge has refused comment since the sentencing.

A 51-year-old recovery-room nurse with a religious belief in forgiveness, Mrs. Lemmon said she has been hounded by reporters for TV tabloid shows and questioned as though she didn't care about her daughter.

"Really, I felt like I was on trial, kind of. . . . They don't understand that I feel some compassion for Ken. . . . Don't get me wrong that I don't feel angry, that I'm not hurt. But I don't feel bitter about it."

Peacock's attorney, David B. Irwin, yesterday declined to comment on Mrs. Lemon's statements about earlier domestic violence. "There's no basis for the allegations, as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Irwin said.

"I certainly know of no such incidents. The only person who does know is, unfortunately, poor Sandy."

Mrs. Lemon said she knew that her daughter's checkered background would come out if the case went to trial, including instances of past infidelities, drunk-driving charges and a burglary of a relative's home.

"I want you to know that Sandra was also a very wonderful person -- when she wasn't drinking," Mrs. Lemon said.

Mrs. Lemon said her daughter loved fishing and horseback riding and was outgoing to a fault. But when she or her husband drank, as they frequently did, they changed, "and they did things to one another," the mother said.

"It does not excuse what he did," she said, "but to me, what happened is the end result of alcoholism."

She said Mrs. Peacock began drinking as a teen-ager and became uncontrollable, getting pregnant and marrying the first of her four husbands at 17.

"She went on the road with a trucker, and she's been that way ever since," Mrs. Lemon said. She said three of her daughter's four husband were truckers, the other a Texas police officer.

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