A woman was sentenced today to 13 years in prison for the “road rage” shooting death of another woman motorist on an exit ramp of a busy interstate.
Shirley Henson, 41, showed no emotion when she heard the sentence for manslaughter in the killing of Gena Foster, a 34-year-old mother of three.
Prosecutors said Henson tailgated Foster for several miles on Interstate 65 as the two women drove from work to their homes in suburbs south of Birmingham on Nov. 8, 1999.
Circuit Judge Al Crowson said he knew his sentence in this case would be closely watched because all drivers have “a little road rage” in them. He said neither probation, as requested by the defense, nor the maximum sentence of 20 years was appropriate.
Parole Possible in 4 1/2 Years
Prosecutors argued against probation but did not request a specific sentence. They said she would be eligible for parole in about 4 1/2 years.
Crowson said he has never carried a gun in his car. “I believe that those people that carry pistols in their car need to be responsible for them,” he said.
The victim’s mother, Patricia Newell of Sun City, Ariz., cried on the witness stand as she testified at today’s sentencing hearing.
“I’m in more pain than I am in anger,” she said. “The loss is too great.”
Originally charged with murder in Foster’s death, Henson was convicted on a reduced charge of manslaughter in October. She has remained free on the $50,000 bond; she was ordered to report to jail Jan. 2.
Prosecution evidence showed Henson, driving a sport-utility vehicle, stayed on the bumper of Foster’s Pontiac even as Foster sped up.
Foster got out of her car on an exit ramp and walked back to Henson’s vehicle, which stopped directly behind Foster. Henson shot once through the unrolled driver’s window, striking Foster in the cheek from close range.
The defense claimed Foster brought the killing on herself by driving erratically and acting threateningly toward Henson, who testified that she feared for her life when she killed Foster.
Witnesses testified Foster had a volatile personality, and Henson’s lawyers contended she was addicted to a prescription painkiller that could have worsened her behavior.
Her defense attorney, David Cromwell Johnson, has said he would appeal but no papers have been filed.