A Tarzana woman, who said she shot her millionaire husband to death because she mistook him for a burglar, was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison.
Carole Evelyn Mellinger, 48, showed no reaction as the sentence was pronounced by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene E. Schempp. Mellinger was convicted Nov. 19 of voluntary manslaughter in the death of her 69-year-old husband Brainerd.
The victim, who owned an import business worth an estimated $4 million, was shot four times on Jan. 24, 1990, as he entered the den of their home. Carole Mellinger said her husband was not expected home that night. She had been drinking heavily and thought that he was an intruder when he entered the den, she said.
Prosecutors, who argued that Mellinger was motivated by greed and by jealousy over her husband's longstanding affair with another woman, sought a first-degree murder conviction.
But after four days of deliberation, a jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Ann Korban asked Schempp on Monday to sentence Mellinger to a minimum of 10 years in prison, saying Mellinger has never shown remorse for the killing.
"She is cold-hearted," Korban said. "She knew what she was doing and took a life."
Mellinger's attorneys asked Schempp to order a new trial, saying that there was never any evidence of first-degree murder and that their client had honestly believed her life was in danger when she fired.
But Schempp rejected that claim, saying Mellinger could have called a neighbor or police if she feared that there was an intruder.
"Instead, she consumed large amounts of alcohol and armed herself with a loaded gun," Schempp said. "And that is a deadly situation."
Mellinger did not speak during the sentencing but earlier wrote a four-page letter to court officials in which she again maintained that the shooting was accidental.
"This whole thing is a nightmare," she wrote. "No one has suffered more than I have. This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life."
Mellinger said in the letter that she reacted defensively, the way her husband had taught her when he bought her the gun. "If I felt my husband was blaming me in any way for what happened, I would not want to live," she wrote. "My husband always said shoot first and ask questions later."
A Jan. 15 hearing has been scheduled to hear Mellinger's appeal to be released from jail on bail while her lawyers contest her conviction.