Confessed murderer Ben Berwick, 51, nodded to his family as he entered a St. Johnsbury courtroom. Four months after striking a deal with prosecutors, it's sentencing day.
"This is the matter of state verses Benjamin Berwick," Vt. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Manley said.
In 2009, the Lyndon man slit his estranged wife's throat with a filet knife in the parking lot of a St. Johnsbury shopping center three days after Christmas. Anna Berwick, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Based on the lengthy trail of blood between Anna's van and her body, she had apparently been trying to flee the brutal attack," Caledonia County Prosecutor Lisa Warren said.
It's an image Anna's family would rather forget. They try to remember the mother of three differently.
"Full of pep. She was always smiley. She had the sparkliest eyes you ever saw," said Jane Handley, Anna's sister.
The family says that all changed when she met and married Berwick. He was physically abusive, kept her from her family and eventually killed her after she decided to leave him.
"You can't imagine the pain there is in my heart. I have the rest of my life to be alone without my best friend," said Rose Terry, Anna's sister.
"What he did to her was one of the most despicable, low-life, un-American things anyone could do to someone," said Harlan Miles, Anna's son.
Ben Berwick apologized to Anna's family and said he would take it back if he could.
"I understand the pain I caused and I only hope someday they will forgive me," he said.
Judge Manley approved a plea deal that keeps Berwick behind bars for 18 years; two years shy of the state minimum for second-degree murder. He's also required to complete a domestic violence treatment program while in prison. Prosecutors say it's a fair sentence given the risks at trial, but the victim's family disagrees with the deal.
"It's a slap in the face. Getting away with murder, pretty much what he's done," said John Conley, Anna's brother.
Outside the court, Anna's siblings hugged. They say the only silver lining to this tragedy is that it's brought them all a little closer.
"We realize that we never know when our last day together will be," said Laurie Landry, Anna's sister.
"Every minute is more precious," Handley added.
"Yeah, for sure," Landry agreed.
Berwick will get credit for the time he's already served in prison. He'll be 65 when he's released.
Tuesday, March 11 2014 10:28 PM EDT2014-03-12 02:28:52 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 10:20 PM EDT2014-03-12 02:20:41 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 7:56 PM EDT2014-03-11 23:56:46 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:49 AM EDT2014-03-11 15:49:17 GMT
A Plattsburgh woman faces charges for allegedly attacking someone with a knife. New York State Police were called to the Best Value Inn on Booth Drive Sunday night for a report of a domestic dispute. InvestigatorsMore >>
A Plattsburgh woman faces charges for allegedly attacking someone with a knife.More >>