Nov. 3, 2008 -- From the outside, the Sheehans looked like a happy family -- she a devoted mother of two and school secretary, he a respected former New York City Police sergeant with 20 years on the force, and a church volunteer.
Behind the smiles and closed doors, though, Barbara Sheehan said her family lived in fear of her husband, Raymond. That is, until February 2008, when Sheehan snapped and police say she admitted to shooting and killing her husband with 11 bullets from his own gun.
Sheehan pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. She is out of jail on a $1 million bond. The case is expected to go to trial in the spring.
Sheehan, 47, said the ex- cop terrorized the family for 18 years, and she believed she had nowhere to turn for help.
"I was sure that he was going to kill me. There was no doubt about it," Sheehan said in an exclusive interview with WABC-TV in New York.
Sheehan said the abuse began after the birth of the couple's second child. "It started with pushing, shoving, him apologizing, and then it would get worse, and then it got to a point where he just stopped apologizing. He was blaming it on me," she said.
Her 22-year-old daughter, Jennifer Sheehan, said her father would lock her and her brother, Raymond, in the bedroom and told them he'd kill them if they came out.
"It's terrible to say, but it's better since he's been gone," Jennifer said. "But I still have nightmares that he's gonna come home in the middle of the night. I wake up sweating, crying" she told WABC-TV.
Final Act of Violence
A 2007 family vacation to Jamaica turned into a horror show. "The walls in the hotel were like cinder block and he kept banging my face into it until my head cracked open. There was blood all over the room, and I wound up in the hospital on the island of Jamaica," Barbara Sheehan said.
Sheehan said she didn't dare file a report or call the police on her officer husband.
"She couldn't go to the law because he was the law," said psychologist Nando Pelusi. "It sounds like in her mind she reached that point where it was all or nothing, and it was survival or death."
Like most battered women, Sheehan said it's just not that easy to leave an abusive spouse. "He was not going to allow me to leave."
Sheehan said even after Raymond was retired, he was always armed. He wore a gun around his waist and another strapped to his ankle, and he pointed a gun at her many times, she said.
"He'd put it to my head and told me if I left or told anybody that he would definitely use it. 'He would go down in glory,' is the words he used," Sheehan said.
The day before her husband's death, he allegedly punched his wife in the face and broke her nose after she said she refused to go on a vacation to Florida with him.
He took her to a nearby hospital for treatment, but Sheehan told the Daily News that Raymond called her on her cell phone while he waited in the parking lot and told her he would kill her if she told anyone what happened.
The next day, Sheehan said she shot Raymond 11 times while he shaved. Her lawyer argued the killing was in self-defense.
"Only at the last moment when she was about to die did she act. If she'd wanted to kill him she could have killed him over 15 years," said attorney Michael Dowd.
If found guilty of murder, Sheehan faces 15 years to life in prison. She is afraid of prison but was more afraid of her husband.
"I would never hurt anybody ever. We were really being hurt physically, emotionally, psychologically," she said.
Jennifer Sheehan said she is proud of what her mother did.
"As far as I look at it, he was never really a father to me. And I'm proud that she defended herself," Jennifer said. "He ripped our family apart. Everything he did, everything he said. He could have just left us alone but he wouldn't."