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Woman Admits Beating Her Husband to Death : Domestic violence: She faces a sentence of up to 11 years. Neighbors had said the Tujunga couple drank heavily and had loud arguments.

October 29, 1991|JAMES QUINN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 46-year-old Tujunga woman who authorities said repeatedly beat and harassed her frail husband admitted in court Monday that she killed him in a fit of anger.

Michelle Chapman pleaded no contest in San Fernando Municipal Court to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in a domestic-violence situation in which the wife was the aggressor and the husband a passive victim.

As the result of her plea, which is the legal equivalent of an admission of guilt, Chapman faces up to 11 years in prison for the June 9 beating death of her husband, Thomas Chapman, 52.

Deputy Dist. Atty. William E. Holliman, who agreed to allow Chapman to plead to the reduced charge, said he will ask for the maximum sentence "because this was a particularly brutal killing."

He said the lesser charge was accepted because it "encompasses the full extent of her criminality."

Police said that Thomas Chapman apparently was beaten to death with a liquor bottle and that the couple's bedroom was splattered with blood.

Holliman said several of the victim's relatives plan to ask the sentencing judge to impose the maximum term.

Before pleading to the lesser charge, Chapman had been facing 15 years to life on a charge of murder.

Her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Marc A. Hentell, said he will ask for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation before she is sentenced Nov. 12.

Hentell was not available for comment after his client entered her plea just as a preliminary hearing was about to begin in the case.

Chapman has been in custody without bail since her husband's death.

In interviews at the time of the killing, neighbors at the couple's apartment building in the 10000 block of Samoa Avenue said the Chapmans frequently drank heavily and had loud arguments.

They said Michelle Chapman once poured scalding water in her husband's lap and another time stabbed him.

Neighbors said that several hours before her husband's death, they heard Michelle Chapman telephoning police and warning them in a shouted voice to "get him and take him away before I kill him!"

Although police responded, they left after apparently concluding that there was no imminent threat of danger, neighbors said.

A short time later, Michelle Chapman called 911 and responding paramedics found the man dead in the couple's bedroom. She was arrested shortly afterward.

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