Whatever sentence you impose can't hurt her or be more detrimental than what she's already done to herself. She knows that she's the reason that Virginia is not here. That's something she has to deal with every minute of every day. That is something she is living with. —Heidi Buch, attorney
WEST JORDAN — After Mary Hansen shot and killed her teenage daughter and then turned the gun on herself, driving through their West Jordan neighborhood and asking for help before her arrest, her cousin went over to clean the home.
"I've never been in a home so filled with evidence of love," Monica Davis told 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck of what she found inside 8366 Bard Lane. "It was a disordered home. It was clear there was a lot of mental illness there, but it was loving."
Mary Hansen told police she killed her 18-year-old daughter, Virginia, on March 21, 2012, because the two had a suicide pact and "wanted to die."
Tuesday, the 55-year-old was sentenced to consecutive sentences of one to 15 years for manslaughter and three to 15 years in prison for felony discharge of a firearm, both second-degree felonies, in connection with the shooting.
Hansen pleaded guilty but mentally ill to both counts in January 2013.
Hansen wore jeans and a blue sweatshirt, her hands shackled, as she entered the courtroom and shyly smiled into the gallery Tuesday. Her attorney, Heidi Buchi, patted Hansen's back repeatedly as she recounted the woman's struggles.
"Whatever sentence you impose can't hurt her or be more detrimental than what she's already done to herself," Buchi said. "She knows that she's the reason that Virginia is not here. That's something she has to deal with every minute of every day. That is something she is living with."
Hansen was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in her daughter's death. After shooting Virginia and then herself in the head, she drove to the home of a neighbor, honked her horn and asked the neighbor to call 911, according to charging documents.
The woman then drove back to her home, a few houses away. Police found her bleeding and still inside her vehicle when they arrived.
Virginia Hansen's body was found in a bedroom of the home with a revolver nearby. Mary Hansen told those at the hospital that she and her daughter suffered from a mental illness.
Hansen wiped her eyes as prosecutor Josh Player described Virginia as a bright and creative girl who loved literature and wanted to write books. He recounted how Hansen and her daughter had come to Utah in search of a better life, but that Mary Hansen's struggles "persisted and amplified" here and she and her daughter became increasingly isolated.
"It became more and more a team of two, an island of two," he said. "One of the greatest tragedies is the failure to get help for herself, failure to get help for her daughter."
Both Buchi and Player said Hansen has consistently expressed great remorse for her actions. Davis said Hansen has often said she would rather be with Virginia, but has continued living anyway.
Buchi said her client has responded to treatment at the Utah State Hospital and asked that she be sentenced to serve her prison term in the mentally ill offender unit, which she said is staffed by the same personnel as the Utah State Hospital, should Hansen's situation decline.
"I think the fact that she has reached the maximum benefit at the hospital is a testament to her ability to try very hard to engage in treatment available to her," Buchi said. "This has been a tragedy that none of us really can imagine and it is something that Mary deals with every day."
The judge imposed the sentence that was outlined in Hansen's plea agreement and did recommend that Hansen serve her time in a unit for the mentally ill. Lubeck said the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole would know that Hansen had already spent 845 days in custody.
"I think there are things you have yet to do here, Ms. Hansen, so I hope they can be done," the judge said. "These circumstances are not good, but as the saying goes, 'The dawn is always invincible.' There will be a sun."
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