Jennifer Sheehan Was 'Relieved' When Mom Killed Dad

When Jennifer Joyce Sheehan's mother killed her father, she was relieved.

"He was such a monster in all of our lives," Sheehan told "I was always so afraid that he was going to kill my mom. It's such a relief that he's gone."

Barbara Sheehan killed her husband, retired New York police officer Raymond Sheehan, as he shaved in the bathroom on the morning of Feb. 18, 2008. She shot him 11 times after suffering years of violent abuse and threats from him.

"My mom would never hurt anybody," Jennifer Sheehan said. "He [Raymond Sheehan] would say it all the time—that he was going to kill her, us, the rest of the family. If she didn't protect herself, he would have not only killed her, but the rest of us, too."

But after the relief wore off, Jennifer Sheehan, 26, and her brother Raymond Sheehan, 22, faced another terrifying reality—the possibility that they could lose their mother to life in prison for murder.

The siblings tell their mother's story in their new book, "In Bed with the Badge: The Barbara Sheehan Story," available today.

"We were stunned," Raymond Sheehan writes in the book. "It all happened so fast that for a moment I lost my equilibrium. I felt as though I had been spun around a hundred times, then forced to stand still and walk."

When the case went to trial in 2011, Jennifer and Raymond Sheehan stood by their mother and testified against their father.

The siblings are part of a long line of children who have watched their parents go through high-profile trials.

Just this year, the children of ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, two-time presidential candidate John Edwards and legendary pitcher Roger Clemens have been subjected to the grueling and invasive ordeal of watching their fathers go through trials.

But what effect does the trial process have on these offspring, both young and older, especially in highly publicized and scrutinized cases?

"You have the parents undergoing a huge stressor and the child trying to cope with how that affects them and their world," Dr. Alan Kazdin, a professor at the Yale University department of psychology, told "The fallout could be huge."

The stress is the first thing Jennifer Sheehan recalls from her mother's trial.

"Just being there for the short amount of time that I was, listening to closing arguments and a couple of people testifying, waiting for the jury's decision—the anxiety is just through the roof," she said. "There's no way to describe it. You don't even really have feelings. You're so anxious, you're so scared."

Barbara Sheehan was charged with second-degree murder and two gun possession charges. She faced 25 years to life in prison, but was acquitted of murder and one of the gun charges. She could still face jail time for the second gun charge. Jennifer Sheehan was 25 years old during the trial in Queens, N.Y. and Raymond Sheehan was 22.

Jennifer Sheehan said that one of the most painful parts of the trial was being shocked by the lies she felt her father's side of the family told in court.

She said that in the time leading up to her father's death, her mother had told his family that things were really bad and that she needed their help. Jennifer Sheehan said her father's family shut them out and testified in court that nothing was wrong with their son.

"You feel totally helpless. This is so untrue, and this is what you're putting out into the world?" she said. "You just want to say, 'No, you're wrong. That's not the story.' But you can't really do anything."

"There's a level of passive humiliation there. Kids can't do anything. They can come up and testify as character witnesses, but they listen to all of these terrible things," Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, told "They are overwhelmed by their inability to take any action."

"This stuff comes at them really hard," Hilfer added.

For Jennifer Sheehan, the experience led to great difficulty trusting people.

"My instinct is to not trust people," she said. "It's hard to accept that people don't tell the truth in court. It makes you not want to go out, not want to have friends, to stay in and not talk to anybody. It's hard to start doing that again. It's little by little."

Sheehan is married and said she would like to have children someday, but admits that she has worried about the possibility of her father's behavior being genetic and has thought about how much she would not want a child to grow up like she did.

"This is riddled with mixed and heavy emotions that could just have a huge toll on sleeping, handling pressure, blood pressure and staying sane," Kazdin said.

Jennifer Sheehan said she went to therapy before the trial, and though she does not go right now, she thinks she might like to go back in the future. For now, she relies on yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to keep her calm.

Both doctors stressed that trial experiences vary greatly and depend on factors like age and prior relationship to parents.

Hilfer pointed to the example of John Edwards' daughter Cate Edwards, 30, who devoutly attended court nearly every day, even when testimonies sent her crying from the courtroom.

"Fascinatingly enough, there's always one kid in the family who becomes the father's lawyer, who sticks with the dad no matter how egregious his actions were," Hilfer said. "No matter how bad a parent acts, it's still a parent."

Kazdin said that Cate Edwards was likely able to handle the strain of the trial and remain at her father's side because of her age and the fact that she was already leading her own life, separate from her parents.

Conversely, Hilfer referenced shamed Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff's sons, Matt and Andrew Madoff, who notified police of what their father had confessed to doing the day before he was arrested.

The sons reportedly cut off all contact with their parents after the arrest and on the two-year anniversary of the arrest, Matt Madoff, 46, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. He had hung himself while his 2-year-old son slept in the next room.

"We all felt that this kid felt so guilty about, number one, turning his dad in, and number two, being accused of being involved himself," Hilfer said. "It just destabilized him and the guilt overwhelmed him and he unfortunately couldn't handle that aspect of it and committed suicide."

The doctors also emphasized the uniqueness of these cases because of their notoriety and media attention.

"When it's totally public and out in the open, it's horrible. You see your name in the news, you're involved, there's a scandal. All of this stuff becomes more overwhelming and you begin to have a lot of regrets," Hilfer said.

"There's no way to escape the damage that this will cause," he said. "When something like this becomes public, we become the victims of our own misdeeds and there's no way out of this one alive. Everyone gets damages. Everyone gets pain inflicted."

Jennifer Sheehan found herself feeling conflicted about the media attention.

"Overall, I think it helped because most of the media was positive," she said. "But I think that emotionally for my family, it definitely hurt. It's hard enough to go through this, but then to have that constant focus…walking up to the courtroom, you couldn't even get out of the car. There were cameras everywhere. It's so overwhelming."

For Jennifer Sheehan and her brother, the ordeal paid off when their mother was found not guilty.

"At the end, right before the verdict was read, I couldn't even breathe," Jennifer Sheehan wrote in the book. "Raymond told me that it felt to him like time had stopped. We were both so scared and nervous. Hearing 'not guilty' for murder in the 2nd degree and again 'not guilty' for the first gun possession charge was the most ecstatic feeling either of us have ever had."

Though Sheehan says she does not feel put together all the time, she says her relationship with her mother is stronger than ever.

"She's okay and I don't have to text her all the time. He's not going to hurt her," Sheehan said. "She couldn't really be herself or be happy when he was alive. Now, I'm getting to know her, who she really is."

Though Hilfer said that the residual effects from the trial experience can resonate throughout someone's life, the hope is that the child learns from the ordeal.

"It's a horrible experience for these kids," Hilfer said. "One would hope that they would learn from their parents' mistakes."