Indicating that he didn't sense genuine remorse for the crime, Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone sentenced Heather McGlothen to life in prison Thursday for her role in the beating death of her grandmother.
McGlothen, 25, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to murder Marilyn Hegge, who was found in her blood-soaked bed on Nov. 30, 2008.
McGlothen had a contentious disagreement with her grandmother, leading McGlothen to conspire with her boyfriend, Dominique Lewis, to bludgeon Hegge to death on her 78th birthday, prosecutors have said.
McGlothen gave a brief apology to her family and defended her actions when given an opportunity to speak before sentencing.
"I was really not in my own frame of mind during the time that this happened because I was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from sexual abuse that happened to me," she said.
The sexual abuse is alleged to have happened months before the murder. McGlothen accused her uncle, Carlos Enrique Hegge, of fondling her while she slept.
Carlos Hegge was jailed on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse. The charge was dismissed more than a year after the murder. Part of McGlothen's dispute with her grandmother stemmed from Marilyn Hegge's plan to bail Carlos Hegge out of jail, defense attorneys have said.
Marilyn Hegge's body was found at her home on Red River Drive, off Man o' War Boulevard.
McGlothen was not inside the home when Hegge was killed, but she helped plan the attack carried out by Lewis. He pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
McGlothen told Scorsone she had learned from her mistakes during her time in jail.
"I'm not this monster that the prosecutor is trying to portray me as," she said.
Scorsone wasn't swayed by her speech.
"Ms. McGlothen, I was looking for some genuine remorse on your part," he said. "I pray that you will find that in prison."
McGlothen told the judge that the medications she was on made it hard to express her emotions.
Scorsone proceeded to sentence her for murder, plus 20 years for first-degree burglary and five years each on charges of tampering with physical evidence and fraudulent use of a credit card. She will be eligible for parole after 20 years.
The burglary, credit card fraud and tampering charges came after McGlothen and Lewis stole Hegge's credit card and charged $135 on it, and buried evidence in plastic bags.
Defense attorney Edward Thompson said afterward that the sentence was appropriate. He said McGlothen was "learning from the consequences of her actions."
In regards to Scorsone's statement, Thompson said the "psychotropic medications" that McGlothen has been taking in jail can make it hard to experience and express emotions.
"In two-plus years of dealing with her, she has always expressed remorse to me," he said.
McGlothen's mother, Lillian, was present in the courtroom Thursday but refused to speak with reporters.
A group of Marilyn Hegge's friends and family huddled outside the courtroom after the hearing, talking with prosecutor Traci Caneer. Caneer told reporters that no one from the group wished to speak.
Family and friends did express themselves in victim impact statements that were filed later Thursday. All but one of the statements asked the judge to give McGlothen a harsh punishment.
Nancy Holloway, a volunteer Bible instructor at the Fayette County jail, wrote in support of McGlothen, who she described as a "bright, lively woman" who was eager to change. During Bible study, McGlothen "took an active role in discussions, sharing reflectively on the passages and questions," Holloway wrote.
Holloway asked Scorsone to reduce the amount of time McGlothen needed to serve before she would be eligible for parole.
But 11 other letters — written by Hegge's siblings, nieces, nephews and friends — told Scorsone that McGlothen deserved the maximum penalty. Hegge was described by friends and family as a quiet, gentle woman who above all wished to provide for friends and family.
Her loved ones said Hegge always remembered the birthdays of all 13 of her nieces and nephews and their 23 children. She was said to be a tech-savvy woman, sending electronic greeting cards on special occasions and keeping up with her distant friends by email.
Barbara Yee, a friend, wrote that Hegge made a career of helping people. Hegge worked as a nurse all over the country and the Panama Canal Zone before moving to Lexington, where she worked as a neonatal nurse at the University of Kentucky, Yee said.
The letters said Hegge adopted her two children, Carlos and Lillian, from Costa Rica.
"Heather is shrewd and scheming and stops at nothing, obviously, to get what she wants. She knew Dominique, her boyfriend, would do anything for sex, so she used him to carry out her plans for the murder," said Marilyn Hegge's sister, Betty Hegge Uehlein.
"Heather should be kept in prison as long as Dominique is — if not longer," she said.