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Anna Pehota Is Found Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder in Husband’s Killing and Sentenced to Life

| July 22, 2016

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Anna Pehota looks at the clock after the jury went into the deliberation room. (c FlaglerLive)

Anna Pehota, the 76-year-old Hammock woman who shot and killed her husband in their home last September, was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury of four women and two men Friday, the third day of trial.

Pehota appeared unmoved by the verdict, which she heard standing up, flanked by her two attorneys.

Moments later, she was sentenced to life in prison without parole, with a mandatory minimum of 25 years–irrelevant, considering Pehota’s advanced age. She will die in prison.

The expectation from several people in the courtroom, in informal conversations when the court was in recess, was that it would be a lengthy deliberation. It wasn’t. The jury had a verdict in 90 minutes, including a break jurors took late in the morning. They had gone into their deliberation room at 11 a.m. They told a bailiff they had a verdict just before 12:30 p.m.

In the end, the prosecution’s argument won out that Pehota’s anger, absent any indication of abuse from her husband, physical or even verbal, the day of the killing, was no justification for a homicide. The defense had argued that nothing was certain about the killing, least of all Pehota’s memory. But a letter she wrote her son about the day of the shooting, and a three-hour interview with investigators, in which she admitted to the killing in several various ways, proved too convincing.

Her daughter spoke to the court before the sentencing. “I know she’s going to die in jail. I don’t know how she would ever get out,” she told Judge Matthew Foxman, saying she didn’t know “how jail works,” but wished she could somehow see her mother again.

“What happened here?” the judge asked her.

The daughter said she remembered confrontations and issues between her parents, and couldn’t understand how her mother could have stayed with her father that long. “We believe there was something wrong mentally or she was sick with cancer or something that she couldn’t take care of daddy anymore.” She added: “I don’t think my father would have lived as long if she wasn’t by his side.”

She asked to give her mother a hug. “I’m not going to let you do that,” the judge said, abiding by normal procedures.

There’s never been a headline, Assistant State Prosecutor Jennifer Dunton told the jury, that had a young man found not guilty after shooting his young wife just because she’d told him she was leaving him. “That’s really our facts here when you look at it, with a few differences,” Dunton said of the Pehota case. The difference is age and a role reversal: Anna Pehota shot her husband John after he told her he was leaving her. They’d been married 56 years. They were both in their 70s. That’s the only difference, Dunton said.

The case is not about an abused woman, or a threatened woman. Pehota herself had never said in her three-hour interview with detectives that she’d been verbally or physically abused. Not even on Sept. 23, 2015, when she killed her husband. “Any demeaning examples, anything about him putting her down, did she ever even give examples of that? No.”

He was even complimenting her recent cooking, a chicken soup he’d found particularly good.

Some time back he’d verbally threatened her one time when she threw away his pills (actually, threatened to shoot her, too, a detail Dunton did not mention). “But nothing ladies and gentlemen that justifies murder,” the prosecutor said. “And now we know, thanks to the letter that we have between her and her brother, what was actually said that day to cause her” to kill her husband. “He said he was going to leave her.”

Key in the prosecution’s case was the letter that emerged at the end of the second day of trial, a letter Pehota had written her son two months after the killing, in which she described what happened, at least to her recollection.

Pehota’s attorney, Ray Warren, sought to demolish the prosecution’s case by telling the jury that that entire case rested on assumptions, not fact, let alone corroborated fact.

“She didn’t do what she wrote in the letter,” Warren said. “She still doesn’t remember. She’s confabulating. She knows her husband is dead and she’s trying to explain it. But she can’t. She can’t anymore 10 weeks after the fact than she could three hours after the fact.”

After the verdict and after the jury had left the room, the judge asked Pehota if she had anything to say. She spoke at length, and described herself and her husband having issues with memory matters and psychological issues. But she did not add clarity to the killing–perhaps implicitly making her attorney’s point that to this day she does not know what happened.

“The consistent theme is how senseless they are,” Foxman said of the many killings he’s known of through trials, addressing Pehota. He told her that all those killings have something else in common: that they could have been avoided. He told Pehota that the bottom line was she had raised a gun to her husband and shot him four times, once in the back. When Pehota interrupted him to say she hadn’t shot him in the back, Foxman immediately cut her off.

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29 Responses for “Anna Pehota Is Found Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder in Husband’s Killing and Sentenced to Life”

  1. Veteran says:

    She obviously snapped that day after years of abuse. Give her a year or two in prison. She is not a threat to society.

  2. senior citizen says:

    so sad on so many levels

  3. Kendall says:

    This is just sad. No outcome was going to be ok. I’m very sorry for her children who have effectively lost both parents.

  4. Jim Bob says:

    Congratulatory drinks back at the DA’s office. Nothing scarier than a criminal jury on Friday.

  5. anonymous says:

    I feel bad for the entire family. I send you prayers. I used to be a corrections ofc in south Florida. This is not a life that anyone wants to have. It wasnt too much fun working there either.
    I suggest take classes, go to library, get a job in the kitchen. Anything to keep occupied. Try to get in with the right group of people.

  6. Mamma O'Malley says:

    One of us is missing something here, Veteran….But, I’m fairly certain the facts reported indicated there were NO signs of abuse. That being said–where is her justification? It is a shame that the children have lost both parents—and even worse that an elderly woman will die in prison. We reap what we sow, however.

  7. marty says:

    this poor woman belongs in a mental health facility NOT prison… its very obvious she needs some kind of help rather than being locked away. Yes she will die in a facility BUT it should NOT be a prison.God bless her and her family

  8. Youth says:

    If she was a black kid there would be no issue. She did the crime, so do the time.

  9. Anonymus says:

    So let me get this straight. They sentence a 76 year old woman to life in prison who has memory issues, but yet they let sexual predators as well as other young criminals back on the street. This woman is no threat to society. Great job!! Sending prayers to her & her children

  10. liberal says:

    She mad a bad choice and will pay for it. That is what is supposed to happen. Saying you are too old to be responsible is no excuse. She could have left him….

  11. LawAbidingCitizen says:

    this “poor woman” shot her husband 4 times… are you people really going to sit here and feel bad for her. IF it was that bad, she should have left. not killed her husband. This woman, im sure was tested many times to see if she was competent. which she was. So please, Stop the semantics about “this poor woman”. How about the “poor mans” life she took??

  12. DaveT says:

    I agree she is guilty, but prison, but we don’t know yet which prison.

  13. Katie Semore says:

    Seems it would have been a good idea once this couple started having memory/mental issues if the weapons would have been removed from their possession.

  14. Geezer says:

    *Strike 1: Very poor legal representation (“shitty” is the legal term) Great defense for a lady with dementia!
    *Strike 2: Jury deliberation on a Friday Weekend sequestration–HELL NO! I WANNA GO HOME!)
    *Strike 3: Old person (It’s just some old person.)

    Elderly woman with dementia, quick Murder 2. Manslaughter–nope, sounds too much like “man’s laughter.”

    Git ‘er Done!

  15. dave says:

    Where were the children of these parents? Why was the mother allowed to suffer mental abuse for so many years? Why was this situation allowed to deteriorate so far with the loved ones stepping in. They said they were in court. We’re they not around or in the parents life to know of the bad situation?

  16. anonymous says:

    The story is very sad. I dont care about those that think she deserved this.
    Ive seen worse get away with more in fact, everyday in this place. They are all connected. It all depends on who you know. And thats a fact!

  17. Fredrick says:

    Geezer and a lot of you other posters… have no idea what you are talking about. Nothing entered in as evidence that she had dementia. If you really think that the jury would have been sequestered over this case you again have no clue….. doesn’t matter if she is old or young, read the law for murder 2 and read the law for manslaughter. Guess which one was broken. It sure as hell was not an accident. Jack said something to piss her off, she went and got her “possum” gun, came out and confronted him, cocked the gun, shot him once, cocked the gun again, put round 2 in him, cocked the trigger again, put the third round in him, cocked the gun a fourth time and put the final round in him. Those are the facts. That was the prosecutions case.

    The defense had nothing but to hope for a jury who would let emotion and pity get in the way of interpreting the law. They could have gone that direction of her being confused / having dementia but that would have had to be entered in as a defense. That would have led the prosecution proving that the condition did not exist. The defense knew they had no chance going down that path. They tried to go for pity and miss direction and lost. But what did they have to lose? If she pleaded guilty, because of her age it would be life in prison, if to a lesser charge, again because of her age it would be life in prison, if going to trial and losing, life in prison. They gave it a shot. but the jury kept with the facts of the case, decided what law was broken and gave their verdict. That was the jury’s one and only job and they did it. I am sure they were torn and had pity and compassion for the situation that these two elderly people who spent most of their lives together were in. We should ask ourselves where was the family of these two, the friends, the neighbors? That is what everyone should be asking. How many other elderly couples in our community are living like these two were. All alone without support.
    Instead of bitching and moaning in the comment section of Flaglerlive, go visit an elderly couple near by. Go take them to the doctor, run and get their groceries, give one of them a break from caring for the other. Doing that would be a better use of your time than criticizing a jury who followed the law, did as they were instructed. If you don;t like the law….. work to get it changed.

    By the way. Mr. Triston… good job reporting on the case. But who in the heck brings their kid to the first morning of a murder trial.? WTF???

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      The only reason I did not bring my son to all three days of the trial, as I wish I could, is because he’s homeschooled in our little Guantanamo Academy, where the chief warden keeps him on a schedule that puts Oxbridge to shame. It’s bad enough that not enough adults see the court system in action. Children should, particularly when they have a judge like Foxman on the bench and a latter-day Darrow like Ray Warren for the defense. There’s more schooling in an hour of that than three pounds of textbooks. Free. I figured opening arguments would be an ideal introduction. The pictures of the dead victim? Accounts of the shooting? He sees more gore and revulsion in the uncensored gutter of FlaglerLive’s comment section than any trial’s evidence. And the trial was nothing near five minutes of hate porn at the Republican National Convention, from which he’s still recovering at an ICU in Orlando (with a chessboard).

  18. Tulsa2 says:

    Posts in this thread provide ample proof that women fear being treated equality. Preferring instead the privileges they imagine are associated with their gender. And nothing but bad, hurtful speculation concerning the dead victim, unable to speak for himself.

    Misandry loves company.

  19. Sally B. says:

    It’s very easy for someone to say “she should have left him”. When your with somebody for that many years and at that age where do you go? Maybe he was in charge of all the finances. He might have told her to leave but he knew she couldn’t financially perhaps?? Plus, he might have killed her if she ever said she was going to leave him. Abuse is a terrible thing. It sounds like she just couldn’t take it anymore. Can you imagine living with someone who put you down everyday of your life, disagreed with everything you said, made it uncomfortable to be around your friends not knowing what would come out if his mouth. I’m not sure if these things apply to her situation but I bet they did. True, it’s no excuse to kill him but I’m sure she was so depressed, sick of years of abuse and just snapped. I agree with the person who said she should be put in a mental hospital for help not prison! She was probably a sweet lady at one time who just couldn’t take life with an abusive husband. I could be wrong. It is a shame for all parties affected by this situation.

  20. footballen says:

    Sally you just described and old boss of mine, actually…………………………………

  21. anonymous says:

    Just because someone is sentenced to prison, u dont have to continue to persecute the lady. The jury has spoken. Let her family have some peace.

  22. snapperhead says:

    “The case is not about an abused woman, or a threatened woman. Pehota herself had never said in her three-hour interview with detectives that she’d been verbally or physically abused. Not even on Sept. 23, 2015, when she killed her husband. “Any demeaning examples, anything about him putting her down, did she ever even give examples of that? No.”

    Reading comprehension….it matters.

  23. Pehota Juror says:

    This was the 3rd time I have been on a jury. Being a juror is never easy. LIke the old saying…..don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Sitting in that juror box is a lot more difficult than could ever be imagined by anyone who has never been there. The facts were very clear and the options were few.

    However, I can tell you what it wasn’t…

    It wasn’t six jurors wanting to go home on a Friday….nothing could be further from the truth.
    It wasn’t about not feeling sorry for this woman who was in a questionable marriage.
    It wasn’t about insanity, dementia or anything in between. Medical testing of her cognitive abilities was simply not any of the facts presented to us.
    AND it was not easy to to send a woman to prison for the rest of her life.

    The facts were clear. REASONABLE DOUBT was never proven.

    You may disagree, but walk in my shoes for four days…then voice your opinion….PLEASE!

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is so sad, and the poor children are the ones to suffer, even though they are grown. We now get to pick up the tab.

  25. Geezer says:

    Pehota Juror:

    “It wasn’t about insanity, dementia or anything in between.
    Medical testing of her cognitive abilities was simply not any of the facts presented to us.”

    You should have questioned! You shipped an elderly demented woman to prison.
    The feel-good story of the year, and YOU played a part.
    I decline the shoe offer, but thanks.

    I rest my case.

  26. Mr. Socks says:

    Well said Pehota Juror!!!

  27. Sherry says:

    I, too have sat on a jury for a murder trail and others. Jury duty is a huge responsibility, which many, many people refuse to step up to. And, the majority of jurors take that responsibility very, very seriously. Saying that, I found that on at least one occasion a juror “assumed” judicial procedures required some sort of judgement of guilt “or the judge would not have allowed the case to go before a jury”. . . which, of course, is completely incorrect.

    I have NOT be able to find any documented proof that Mrs. Pehota has ever been evaluated to determine her mental health. There are those who have commented on this case that they ASSUMED such an evaluation had been conducted. . . what if that was NOT the case? If she was NOT confirmed by a professional analysis to be mentally healthy, then certainly a miscarriage of justice has happened here. This is the quality of legal assistance you can expect when you have a “court appointed” attorney. Great legal support and defense is very expensive. The OJ trial is a great example. If you are rich enough, maybe you really can get away with murder!

  28. dave says:

    You don’t have to be rich bit gotta be smart. The defense attorney must do what you tell them to defend you but they will not go above and beyond without the direction, know tour rights.

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