Former Harrison County police officer given jail time in death of wife www.privateofficer.com
Relatives of Christine Britton wiped away tears and clung to each other in the Dubois County Circuit courtroom as Judge William Weikert told her husband that his recklessness was an aggravating factor in her death.
Charlotte Hitner, Christine Britton’s mother, could barely speak as she dabbed tears with a tissue and tried to compose herself as she left the courtroom.
“It’s been a long three years,” she said.
Stan Faith, John Britton’s lawyer, had pressed to have him convicted of a Class A misdemeanor after he pleaded guilty to felony criminal recklessness last month.
Faith acknowledged after the hearing that “justice is served, (but) I was disappointed that he received six months.”
Britton was charged with felony assisting a suicide in the fall of 2010 after his wife shot herself in March 2009 during the height of the turmoil surrounding former Harrison Sheriff Mike Deatrick, who was their boss.
Deatrick, who had raced to the Brittons’ home in Ramsey that night, was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct and a coverup and had to be hospitalized with heart problems less than a week later.
Investigators determined that Christine Britton, 28, the county’s former jail commander, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but her family pressed for answers about the circumstances.
The family also has filed a wrongful death suit against John Britton and Harrison County, which is pending.
John Britton had told investigators that his wife told him that she hated him and that he made her so mad she could kill herself. But he said she’d threatened that before and he never thought she’d do it.
Britton repeated that statement while testifying Friday about her death. He said that after working a police shift that Sunday, he came home expecting the two would meet a couple for dinner.
But first, he said, they had sex. Then, as they were cleaning up and getting ready to leave, they got into an argument after he chided her that she was going to make them late because she had begun cleaning their cat’s litter box.
John Britton said that led him canceling their dinner plans. As the spat escalated, he testified, his wife lunged at his handgun in their bedroom and he “bear-hugged her” and wrestled her to the ground to get the weapon back.
He said that she told him, “Fine, I’ll get my own” gun. And moments later, after he’d left his handgun on the bed and left the room, he heard the shot.
“I don’t believe for a minute she was suicidal,” he said. “In my opinion that (shooting herself) is not what she wanted to do. She wanted to make a point.”
During final statements, Stanley Levco, the co-counsel to Special Prosecutor Nancy Jacobs, told the judge that if John Britton had not provided the gun to his wife “there’s a reasonable chance she’d still be alive today.”
Earlier in the hearing, Christine Britton’s sister Catherine “Cat” Banet said Britton deserved to be convicted of a felony. “John failed … as a human being,” Banet said.
Christine Britton’s15-year-old daughter LeAndra Ayers also testified about the loss of her mother and their close bond.
Britton, who now lives with his mother and sister in Kentucky, looked down and showed no emotion when Weikert handed down his sentence.
The judge added that Britton could request modification of the conviction if he successfully completes all conditions.
Britton is to serve his time in the Dubois County jail.