Woman who killed boyfriend in ’98 seeks reduced sentence

 

DOVER — A Kent County Superior Court judge is considering the merits of a sentence modification request for a 56-year-old woman convicted of shooting her boyfriend to death on July 29, 1998.

In an emotional state, Catherine W. Culp told Judge Robert B. Young that she had “learned, grown, and matured a lot” since the second-degree murder and was “truly sorry” for taking the life of Felton truck driver Lee B. Hicks, who was 69 at the time.

Her assertation that she missed Mr. Hicks as much as his family does prompted Deputy Attorney General Jason Cohee to say “The cynic in me (thinks that) for her to stand up and say she misses (Mr. Hicks) as much as the family does, that does not ring true to me.”

Culp added that if she could bring Mr. Hicks back she would, “but that’s not happening.” The incident reportedly occurred in Mr. Hicks’ bedroom after a family party at his home on Plymouth Road south of Canterbury and involved a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver.

Now at Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle, Culp also said she tries “to make every day a good day (with) something I can learn or help someone else” so they don’t have a similar experience.

Mr. Hicks’ daughter and granddaughter were in the courtroom for the 20-minute hearing at the Kent County Courthouse, and declined comment afterward.

Defense attorney  William Deely maintained that Culp’s extensive rehabilitation efforts, mentoring, education, counseling, and work while imprisoned met the standard of extraordinary circumstances that could bring a sentence modification, along with her remorse and responsibility shown regarding Mr. Hicks’ death.

Also, Mr. Deely said, Ms. Hicks has an outside support system that would allow her to thrive upon release from prison, likely in her original home state Florida.

“If ever there were a case to be (considered for) extraordinary circumstances for something other than medical reasons, this would be it,” he said.

Mr. Cohee said he believed that extraordinary circumstances were not present, and pointed to case law and precedents limit what action the Court can take. No medical concerns met the criteria, he said.

“This is a pro se attempt for modification of sentencing rules,” he said.

Culp has an effective sentencing date of July 29, 1998, and no suspended time is available for the 20-year sentence at Level V, according to the Attorney General’s office.

Also, a possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony brought eight years at Level V, suspended after serving five years followed by three years Level III probation,

The consecutive sentences, above mandatory minimum requirements, were issued by Judge Henry duPont Ridgely.

Mr. Cohee, mentioning his extensive experience in Board of Pardons proceedings, said he believed that avenue would be better for Culp than approaching the Court. A request for a commuted sentence was denied in November 2012.

The trial in 1999 was originally deemed a capital murder case and included a first-degree murder charge.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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