News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 11, 2010

Hayhurst gets 8 years for shooting wife in head

Shooting of estranged spouse took place at southern Vigo home

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A Vigo County man received an eight-year prison sentence after admitting that he shot his wife in the head last year just days after she had moved out of their home.

Harvey E. Hayhurst Jr., 54, will serve three years of that sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction, and five years on formal probation.

Judge Michael Lewis announced Hayhurst’s penalty for the March 27, 2009, shooting of his estranged wife Paula inside the couple’s garage at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon that included about two hours of testimony in support of Hayhurst.

“It’s not me affecting the lives of those involved, it’s his actions,” Lewis said after hearing pleas for leniency from family and friends who said the judge’s sentencing decision would affect a lot of lives.

Lewis called the case “a typical domestic violence case where the victim doesn’t want him to go to prison.”

The judge said he has struggled with the sentencing decision for the past month, ever since the original attempted murder charge was reduced via plea agreement to a charge of criminal confinement. The plea agreement allowed the sentencing to be argued before the judge with the penalty left up to Lewis.

“What bothers me most is that six shots came out of this gun and she was hit three times,” Lewis said, “and this was an attempted murder case that was pled down to one count of criminal confinement.”

Hayhurst had faced a class-B felony sentencing range of 6 to 20 years, with 10 years being the advisory sentence. While Lewis recognized no aggravating circumstances for a sentence longer than 10 years, he noted the mitigating circumstances of Hayhurst’s lack of a criminal record, the unlikelihood of a recurrence and consideration of the victim’s wishes.

An outburst of crying and yelling came from the audience gallery following the judge’s decision, and  shouts of support followed Hayhurst out of the courtroom as he was escorted by sheriff’s deputies to the Vigo County Jail to begin serving his sentence.

Lewis said that after Hayhurst has served one year in prison, he will consider a sentence modification.

Hayhurst had originally been charged with attempted murder, a class-A felony, and aggravated battery, a class-B felony, in the case. But those charges were amended in February after Prosecutor Terry Modesitt noted that the victim in the case has recanted her original statements about what happened in the incident.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts argued Thursday that many of the letters to the court supporting Hayhurst were written as if Paula was to blame because she had left her husband of 34 years only a few days before the incident.

Even Paula’s mother testified that her daughter shared some of the blame for the incident.

“So in your understanding of this,” Roberts asked Barbara Cooprider, “what has your daughter done to share the blame, for being partially to blame for being shot at six times and being hit multiple times?”

Cooprider responded quietly, “She wanted her space because there might have been someone else in her life.”

When defense attorney Jessie Cook clarified the woman’s response by asking if Cooprider was excusing Harvey Hayhurst’s actions, Paula’s mother replied, “Oh no, I’m not saying that.”

Harvey Hayhurst’s mother, Helen Hayhurst, testified that having her son sent to prison would be a hardship for her since he takes care of her finances, home maintenance and other duties for his widowed mother. Hayhurst’s son and daughter also testified that he helps them with child care and provides a home for his grown daughter, Crystal, and has adopted her son as his own.

Crystal Hayhurst and others also testified that in the days before the incident, Hayhurst had been taking medication that noticeably changed his mood. Crystal and her brother David both testified they were worried that their father was suicidal.

And Crystal said that when she saw the police cars outside the family home on the day of the shooting, she thought they were there because her father had committed suicide. She said she did not think he would shoot her mother.

At the end of testimony, Roberts asked the judge to sentence Hayhurst to 16 years in prison.

Defense attorneys Cook and James Boswell asked the judge for a suspended sentence with probation, and possibly home detention along with counseling.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.