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    Woman, 48, admits to murder of husband

    The Clearwater woman shot her 71-year-old husband in their Japanese Gardens mobile home in April 1999.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001

    Relatives thought a Clearwater woman accused of killing her husband would defend herself as a battered woman. On Monday, though, she pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge.

    A Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge immediately sentenced Christine Cordner-James to 25 years in prison for the April 1999 shooting death of Terence Cordner-James.

    Prosecutor James A. Hellickson told Judge Brandt C. Downey III the couple had argued in the late afternoon and had been drinking on the day of the shooting. Mrs. Cordner-James, now 48, had at least three 12-ounce tumblers of vodka.

    That evening she told a security guard she had loaded a .22-caliber pistol with three bullets: one for her husband, one for the couple's dog and a third for herself.

    "Later that same evening, she said she didn't have it in herself to kill somebody," Hellickson said.

    But as her 71-year-old husband slept just past midnight, she shot and killed him in their Japanese Gardens mobile home. She then ran to a neighbor's home and asked the neighbor to call authorities because she had shot her husband with the handgun the coupled owned.

    In March 1997, Mrs. Cordner-James told police her husband had hit her with a shoe, a telephone and an end table, but there was no mention of Mrs. Cordner-James being a battered woman during the court proceeding.

    "There were allegations (of battering) on both sides, and I don't think we will ever really know what happened," said Kandice Friesen, senior assistant public defender.

    Mrs. Cordner-James had faced life in prison on first-degree murder charges. But with the nod from the victim's family, prosecutors agreed to a negotiated plea.

    Two issues complicated the case.

    A Pinellas medical examiner said the fatal shot was a "pressure shot," suggesting the gun was held next to Mr. Cordner-James' head and not an accident as Mrs. Cordner-James said. Also, Mrs. Cordner-James said she doesn't remember the day of the shooting.

    "It's a very difficult situation when you have someone who doesn't really remember what happened and you're trying to piece it together," Friesen said.

    Mr. Cordner-James was a former Royal Air Force pilot 25 years older than Mrs. Cordner-James. She was a high school dropout who had survived a stormy third marriage. Together, they had a turbulent 13-month relationship. Monday, Mrs. Cordner-James apologized to her husband's family.

    "I would just like to say I did love my husband very much, and I'm so sorry for the hurt I've caused his family," she said.

    It was the first time the family saw her show remorse for the shooting, said Sean Cordner-James, 27.

    "My father battled so many things. He beat prostate cancer. He beat knee surgery. For this lady to shoot him, you can't battle that," he said.

    He, for one, was relieved the trial did not proceed, but the memories of what happened to his father won't fade, said Sean Cordner-James, who gave his 8-month-old son his father's name.

    "He was like my best friend. We were very tight. It will always live in me," he said.

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