Karen Lyn Biraghi, 42, will spend the rest of her life in prison for shooting and killing her sleeping husband, Alan, on Christmas Eve 2011.
Last month, Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. accepted an open plea that adjudicated Biraghi guilty of second-degree murder and send her to prison for at least 25 years, or as much as life in prison.
On Wednesday afternoon, Merritt sentenced Biraghi to the maximum.
Before handing down the sentence, the judge heard testimony from both the prosecution and defense.
“Do you have your hand raised?” asked Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, talking to the first witness, Rosemary Ann Biraghi, patched into a court phone line from her home in England.
Once under oath, Rosemary Biraghi explained how she always had the “maximum respect for Alan’s wife,” and gave her son the space he requested to live his life with Karen “without interference.” Rosemary Biraghi told Magrino she couldn’t really comment on the length of Karen Biraghi’s sentence, because her son’s death has affected the entire family.
Karen Biraghi, unshackled, was given the opportunity to apologize to her mother-in-law over the phone. Biraghi, between heaving sobs, said she didn’t know what to say other than she is very sorry.
“I accept your apology, Karen,” Rosemary Biraghi said, and let her know she would continue to pray for her and work on forgiving her for the “indescribable act.”
The defense dug deep into Biraghi’s past, calling upon licensed psychologist Valerie McClain, who evaluated the defendant on two separate occasions.
McClain said multiple factors from her childhood led to mental health conditions including obsessive compulsive behavior, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and bulimia, as well as the abuse of alcohol and pain drugs.
The psychologist testified that Biraghi’s physical and sexual abuse as a child affected her coping skills and maturity, which McClain described as being at an adolescent level. She described Biraghi as a “broken” woman, and mentioned that eating disorders can deprive the brain of nourishment, leading to blackouts.
McClain said Biraghi was “obsessed” with Disney characters, hoarding and filling her house with the “relics.” Biraghi wasn’t feeling “vindictive,” but that her behavior was “spiraling” out of control, and that she originally intended to kill herself.
Magrino questioned McClain about the paper trail of Biraghi’s abuse, and the psychologist said she did not know of any reports of physical or sexual abuse filed with law enforcement, the school system or the Department of Children and Families.
Biraghi’s mother, Patricia Wells, told the court that she was “always close to her daughter,” and said that Biraghi’s maternal grandmother had severe paranoid schizophrenia.
Karen was “quiet” and “reserved” as a child, Wells said, and that she often tried to get her child to open up to her about anything bothering her.
Biraghi sought her mother’s help after shooting her husband on Dec. 24, 2011, arriving on Wells’ porch with “something to tell her.”
On the stand, Biraghi asked Merritt to sentence her to 25 years, promising to “seek every additional resource while incarcerated,” and that she wanted to “be there” for her daughter upon release.
Biraghi explained she was abusing alcohol and pain pills the day she shot her husband, and drove from their home to a pawn shop to pick up a revolver she had purchased. Back at home, she went into the bathroom intending to kill herself, but came out and shot her husband.
Before sentencing, Merritt wanted to know more about the murder weapon, and whether Biraghi had to manually load each round of ammunition, or if she slid in a loaded clip.
Magrino said Biraghi purchased a revolver.
Merritt acknowledged the “extraordinary” understanding and compassion shown by the victim’s mother, but said that he has sentenced about six people to life in prison the last 28 months, and that Biraghi is deserving of similar treatment.
“I hope you do find some good, purpose, somehow during incarceration,” Merritt said.