TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The case against a Hillsborough County woman who was charged in the shooting death of her husband was dropped.
Sabrina Hendley was charged with murder after deputies said she shot and killed her husband in 2018.
“I am happy that I’m not going to jail for the rest of my life. There is that, but I’m still sad. I have to live with the fact that a person is no longer alive, and that I was forced to be in that position to do that,” Sabrina Hendley told News Channel 8. “It’s something I relive every second of every day.”
Hendley and domestic violence advocates have maintained that years of abuse caused her to act in self-defense.
“I most definitely thought I was going to die. I would have never in my entire life defended myself for no reason,” Hendley said.
On Thursday, after four years, the Hillsborough County State Attorney dismissed the case.
“As a result of our extensive review, we have determined that the charges in this case be dismissed because
the state cannot refute the defendant’s claims of self-defense,” the Hillsborough County State Attorney wrote in a memo.
State Attorney Andrew Warren sent a statement regarding the dismissal of the case.
“We undertook an exhaustive review to get this right—including consulting with multiple experts and uncovering new evidence that was not available to law enforcement or our agency when the case began,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said. “We go where the evidence and law take us, and had we known then what we now know about the serious domestic violence Ms. Hendley had suffered at her husband’s hands, she never would have been charged in the first place as she had a legitimate claim of self-defense.”
“This was clearly a case of severe, violent domestic violence,” said Julie Weintraub, founder of Hands Across the Bay, an organization that fights for victims of domestic violence.
For years, Weintraub has advocated for Hendley.
“Unfortunately here, if we didn’t intervene the way that we did, this woman would have spent her life in prison, and that is frightening to me. She should have never been charged,” Weintraub said. “And [Andrew Warren] said that in his public statement. So this woman has put through four years of terror. It’s just really an unbelievable case.”
Weintraub said she hopes this will change how domestic violence cases are handled.
“I think Sabrina’s case will make this world a little bit safer for all women. We hope that this changes the way that domestic violence victims are treated by professionals,” she said.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, back in 2018, Sabrina and Mark Hendley started arguing after a day of drinking at their home on Angelcrest Drive.
Sabrina Hendley said her husband’s behavior escalated as the day went on.
“I watched him as he tried to drown my best friend. That is a look that I am never going to get out of my memory and she was there to watch as he assaulted me, by lifting me up and throwing me in the pool and jumping on me, and holding a knife to my throat,” she said.
Later, a physical altercation then broke out between Mark Hendley and Sabrina’s father.
During the fight, Mark Hendley reportedly punched the father multiple times.
He then walked away from the fight and into his bedroom. Sabrina followed her husband into the bedroom and demanded he apologize to her father.
Eventually, deputies said Sabrina pulled a handgun from the bed and shot her husband once in the upper body.
“I ultimately felt like we were all about to die,” Hendley said. “If I had the ability to leave the situation I would’ve left. But I did not. He had me trapped. And he threatened multiple people. I wish this had never happened. A lot of people do not understand this but I loved my husband very much and I do miss him, and I don’t understand why it went the way I did.”
Hendley said she is overwhelmed with emotions, as she now works to get her life back.
“I lost my kids. The state took them away because I was deemed an unfit parent. For four years I couldn’t see them without someone else being there,” Hendley said. “I’m still a little overwhelmed by everything, because, while this is something I wish had never happened, I’m really glad that I’m getting my life back.”
“In reaching this conclusion, our office conducted an exhaustive review of all available evidence and applicable legal standards. These steps included but were not limited to reviewing witness interviews and depositions; reviewing audio evidence; reviewing medical records; obtaining additional witness statements; deposing and reviewing testimony from the defense expert; consulting with multiple experts in the field of domestic violence; reviewing academic literature on domestic violence, including partner-related head trauma and traumatic brain injury; presenting the case to SAO’s Homicide Committee; and evaluating the applicable law,” the State Attorney wrote.