Healdsburg woman guilty of first degree murder
Sonoma County jurors on Monday rejected a 25-year-old Healdsburg woman's claim that she was battered and acting in self defense when she stabbed her boyfriend in the neck, instead finding her guilty of first-degree murder.
Sheyna Douprea watched with red-rimmed eyes as the jury of eight women and four men delivered the verdict, making her the first woman in the county to be convicted of murder since 1999.
Douprea claimed her boyfriend, Daniel Mooney, 46, had attacked her and was choking her when she reached into a pocket and pulled out a small knife, stabbing him four times in the neck.
But prosecutors said Douprea - who has a history of domestic violence - flew into a rage and jumped Mooney when he returned home drunk before the couple was to attend his office Christmas party. And jurors agreed.
"This was a woman who was accustomed to having her way," Deputy District Attorney Bob Waner said. "She wanted to go to that Christmas party. Mr. Mooney was not going to frustrate that."
Outside the courtroom, jury forewoman Nancy Doherty of Santa Rosa, said the number of wounds and location left little doubt the killing was deliberate and premeditated.
"The same action was repeated over and over," Doherty said. "It couldn't have been self-defense."
Another juror, Vicki Ranzau of Sonoma, said she was never persuaded by defense attorney Jamie Thistlethwaite's claim that Douprea was the victim of abuse from Mooney. At trial, prosecutors showed evidence that Douprea attacked three other men and her own mother, actions that led to two domestic violence convictions.
"It's pretty clear-cut," Ranzau said. "She was the batterer."
Douprea, dressed in black, was mostly straight-faced as the verdict was read but mouthed something to her mother, seated in the audience, as the jury left the room. Her mother shook her head and walked out.
Now, Douprea faces a likely 26-years-to-life in prison at her Sept. 21 sentencing. Because it was not a capital case, she will be eligible for parole.
Douprea was charged with the Dec. 14, 2008 slaying of Mooney inside their Mason Street apartment. Waner said Douprea arrived home in the late morning and found Mooney intoxicated. Tests revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of .35 percent.
Douprea apparently lost control, ran into a bedroom and grabbed a knife. She assaulted Mooney, cutting four holes in his neck, Waner said.
Mooney tried to stanch the bleeding with a towel but paramedics were unable to save him.
"This was a man who was in a drunken stupor, unable to defend himself," Waner said Friday.
Douprea was arrested the same day. She gave police conflicting accounts of what happened, including that she came home to find him wounded, but settled on an explanation of self-defense.
The mother of a then-two-year-old said she had armed herself because of continuing physical abuse from Mooney and eventually stabbed him as he was strangling her. Thistlethwaite called experts to explain the psychology of battered women who don't report domestic abuse.
"Being stabbed in the neck four times ... it just couldn't have gone down in the way she would have had the jury believe," Waner said.
After about a week of testimony, both sides made closing arguments Thursday. The jury took the case Friday and had questions Monday morning about the difference between first- and second-degree murder.
The verdict came after lunch.
Prosecutors said it is rare in Sonoma County for a woman to be convicted of murdering another person. The last was 11 years ago when then 18-year-old Nicole Bradley of Santa Rosa was found guilty of killing a man during a 1996 carjacking attempt, Assistant District Attorney Diana Gomez said.
Bradley was sentenced to 35-years-to-life in prison but has been granted a retrial which begins this week.
Few women are ever charged with murder, Gomez said. The last was in 2009 when Ruby Wright, 59 of Santa Rosa was accused of stabbing her husband to death. Wright died before she could be brought to trial, she said.
"Statistically, men just commit more crimes of violence than women," Gomez said. "It's not that common that we get a woman who has committed homicide."