Nov. 05--Pamela Leggett-Ortez sobbed uncontrollably in a Houston federal courtroom Monday, asking for leniency for her role in the deadly shooting of a Chambers County deputy at her home, where authorities found a stockpile of 120 homemade bombs.
At her sentencing, Leggett-Ortez made her first public comments since the death three years ago of Deputy Shane Detwiler.
"I'm so sorry," she said, contending that she, too, had been victimized -- abused for years -- by her husband. Gilbert "Tuffy" Ortez Jr. fatally shot Detwiler before committing suicide.
But after hearing prosecutors and Detwiler's family label Leggett-Ortez the main instigator in the death, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon sentenced her to the stiffest sentence possible -- 15 years in prison.
120 homemade bombs
Leggett-Ortez, 32, had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to violate U.S. laws and illegal possession of a machine gun. She was eligible for as little as five years.
The weapons found at the woman's Baytown area home posed a serious risk to the public, the judge said in announcing the sentencing. The 120 homemade bombs were fashioned from everything from plastic bottles to tennis balls and contained metal shards, darts, nails and bullets.
Authorities also recovered a massive arsenal -- including a machine gun and silencers. They also found evidence that Leggett-Ortez was buying chemicals necessary for a bomb and her fingerprint was detected underneath one.
In her statement to the court, Leggett-Ortez said nothing about the weaponry or its purpose. She has refused to discuss it since her arrest.
Kevin Kelley, who has retired as a Texas state trooper since witnessing Detwiler's death, told the court that he was stunned to see so many explosives that day. "She lived in a house with all that stuff. Nobody knows what she intended to do," he said.
Leggett-Ortez's attorney, Peter Bray, said his client was ready to be held accountable for what she had done, but he felt she was being punished more harshly for her husband's actions.
According to authorities, officers on July 13, 2009, had initially responded to a 911 call from utility workers. Leggett-Ortez was shooting at them for trying to shut off her water for non-payment, said prosecutor John Jocher, who said her weapon turned out to be a "starter gun that fired blanks."
Failed to warn officers
Leggett-Ortez had the weapon in her waistband when arrested outside her home. When asked if anybody was inside the house, she said "no" and failed to warn officers about her husband and the cache of weapons, authorities said.
Soon afterward, Detwiler was shot twice in the head through a bedroom door.
"She showed little remorse then," Jocher said. "She told the officers, 'I'm glad he's (Detwiler) dead.'"
Leggett-Ortez's attorney blames his client's behavior on domestic abuse.
She filed one abuse complaint in 2007 in which she accused her husband of beating her with a rod while she was tied to a bed. She later refused to press charges, authorities said.
Leggett-Ortez said the abuse continued. "I was abused more than that," she said Monday. "It happened for 11 years. I couldn't leave. He would find me and bring me back."
In her next breath, she told the court how much she loved her late husband and how her children would also be without a father just like Detwiler's three children.
Son remembers daddy
Detwiler's widow, Trish, said her 8-year-old son remembers his daddy as "a hero" from his service in the military, as a game warden and a deputy.
"But my two youngest were only 8 months and 20 months when he died. They won't have any memories of their dad except from photos," she cried.
Detwiler's mother, Cheryl Railsback, recalled how she had cried when her son took his first step, enlisted in basic military training at age 17 and won a Bronze Star in the Iraq.
"But I was never completely broken and shattered until this happened," Railsback said, "I wish I could have been the one in that casket."
None of Leggett-Ortez's family attended the sentencing hearing.
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