Woman sentenced for killing husband in intentional crash
NEWPORT, Vt. -
It was almost the perfect crime. For two years, Christine Billis, 45, got away with killing her husband-- until she met Kevin Leland on a dating website.
"She confessed to me she killed her husband," Leland said in an interview with Matt Henson in July 2011.
The Brownington woman reportedly admitted to him she drove the family car into a tree on Route 5A in Charleston in September 2009. She wanted to kill her husband, Charles, 57, claiming he was controlling, had threatened to kill her, and she couldn't take the mental and verbal abuse.
"I recorded our conversation on my digital recorder on how she planned it for months," recalled Leland during the interview.
With his personal recordings, plus ones he helped investigators obtain, Billis was charged with first-degree murder. She faced the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison. But instead, she accepted a plea deal for manslaughter and was sentenced to 7-15 years behind bars.
"A gamble for all sides here," Judge Howard VanBenthuysen said.
The plea deal came after doubts were raised about Leland's credibility. He was caught at the border with a gun and drugs. And there was speculation he was trying to financially benefit from blogging about the Christine Billis case.
"I think the state had developed some doubt how credible Kevin would be in front of a jury. So, you take the statements by him out of the mix, the state's case for first-degree murder has some real weaknesses," said David Sleigh, Billis' lawyer.
Sleigh was also attempting to get the taped statements thrown out, citing legal issues with the warrants, but in the end felt a plea agreement was still in the best interest for Billis.
"From our point of view, anytime you are trying a first-degree murder case you are dealing with an incredible risk," Sleigh said.
During the 20-minute hearing, Christine Billis did not apologize for killing her husband. She just shook her head when the judge asked if she had anything to say.
Charles Billis' two brothers had little to say as they left the court, but said they do not support the plea deal.
Kevin Leland was unavailable for comment about this story.
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