Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 16, 2013

UPDATE: Benzie man sentenced to life for wife's death

BY ANGIE JACKSON
ajackson@record-eagle.com

---- — BEULAH — Deshawn Stanton apologized for shooting and killing his wife and said he planned to "get right with God."

A judge on Tuesday sentenced Stanton, 27, to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Stephanie Stanton, 28. He asked her family for forgiveness before Benzie Circuit Judge James Batzer explained his fate.

Stanton immediately swapped his remorseful words for expletives. He interrupted Batzer with profanities directed at him and his victim's family members.

"I ain't done. I ain't through," Stanton said.

Batzer told Stanton he can be considered for parole in 15 years.

"So it doesn't do you much good, Mr. Stanton, to make your vile comments about the judge or the court because you aren't hurting me," Batzer said.

Family and friends of both Stanton and Stephanie packed the courtroom to hear the outcome of an emotional case that began almost a year ago. Authorities said Stanton shot Stephanie, 28, during a heated argument May 6 at a home on Cinder Road in Benzie's Homestead Township.

Stanton pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. His attorney, Jane Johnson, said he pointed a shotgun at Stephanie but did not intend to pull the trigger.

"I have come to believe and understand that Mr. Stanton in his own way truly did love and care for Stephanie, but his love for Stephanie was dramatically overshadowed by his love for drugs and for money," she said.

Tension between the families escalated as Stephanie's relatives read letters in court on Tuesday. An argument broke out in the parking lot after sentencing.

Stephanie's mother, Sherri Gatrell, shook as she hurriedly spoke in court. She told Stanton he controlled her daughter and didn't love her.

"You deliberately didn't want her but you didn't want anyone else having her, and that's why you did it. My three grandkids got to grow up with no mother thanks to you," she said.

Stanton did not father Stephanie's children, ages 6, 8 and 11.

Stephanie kept details of her marriage private. Stanton abused her, Gatrell said, evident by strangulation marks and black eyes on multiple occasions. Gatrell thinks fear paralyzed her daughter from leaving him.

Stephanie's brother-in-law, Brandon Piper, recalled a time he suspected Stanton hurt Stephanie in the bathroom of his home.

"I opened up the door and there you (were) standing there with broken glass on the floor, Stephanie crying. Red neck. Remember that?" he said to Stanton.

Stanton's prior criminal convictions include domestic violence and a drug-related felony, Batzer said.

Johnson argued Stanton had a rough life. His father abused him as a child, she said, and his mother struggled with substance abuse. She disclosed that drug addiction, "lack of education" and criminal histories plagued both families. The couple was addicted to drugs, she said.

Gatrell said Stephanie had a drug problem, but that doesn't explain or justify her death.

Stanton's mother held her head in her hands and wept when Batzer announced the sentence. Family members declined to comment.

Prosecutor Sara Mason said the sentence was appropriate. She said Stanton has a chance to reform his life in prison and "maybe he’ll get out and maybe he won’t. It’s up to him at this point."

Gatrell said she's taking it one day at a time.

"Some days are better, some days aren't," she said. "It's really the hardest when my grandkids tell me they miss their mom and they miss her hugs and kisses."