SSRI Stories note: Amnesia is listed as a frequent side-effect for SSRI antidepressants, like Zoloft, in the Physicians Des Reference.
Canosa guilty of killing husband
By Allison Brophy Champion
Published: June 17, 2011
ORANGE – Schoolteacher Brenda Lee Canosa, 51, of Madison, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of her estranged husband Bob Canosa, an investigator who worked for the Orange and Culpeper county sheriff’s offices.
Mrs. Canosa accepted an Alford Plea in doing so, meaning she did not admit the act, but felt the commonwealth had enough evidence to prove she willfully killed her husband. The last-minute plea agreement came just weeks before a lengthy trial was set to start.
Per the plea agreement, Brenda Canosa faces a prison sentence of five years to 30 years and 10 months. Circuit Court Judge Daniel Bouton will hand down the sentence Sept. 15 at a 9:30 a.m. sentencing hearing.
Dressed in an oversized black-and-white striped prison uniform, her brown hair pulled back in a bun, the defendant spoke more Thursday than she did the entire pre-trial court proceedings, beginning in early 2010.
“It was very hard to make this decision considering I don’t remember (shooting my husband),” Brenda Canosa told the judge, referencing “all the evidence” and “all the people that had been to my home and how sorry I am.”
When asked by Bouton to enter her plea, she said, “Alford Plea” before being advised she had to plead guilty or not guilty. Sighing, Canosa said, “Guilty.” Earlier, the former special education teacher at Madison Primary School disclosed to the judge that she takes five different medications for depression, anxiety and migraines, including Zoloft.
Brenda Canosa originally pleaded not-guilty to killing her husband, only recently saying she did not remember leaving her home the morning of the shooting.
Voice from the grave
In lengthy remarks Thursday, Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler detailed the grisly crime and bloody crime scene, saying Bob Canosa was shot by his wife at least eight times at point blank range outside of his residence in Unionville on the frigid early morning of Dec. 11, 2009. Mrs. Canosa used a nine shot .22 revolver – presented in court as evidence – that belonged to her father to fatally wound her husband.
Bob Canosa died nine days later at the age of 55.
The couple, who have two grown children, had separated the previous April amid allegations of infidelity on his part. However, that was not brought up in court – or any other possible reason for the shooting.
“I’m shot,” he said over the muffled recording.
“Who shot you?” the dispatcher asked. “Did you shoot yourself?”
“No,” Mr. Canosa said.
“Who shot you?”
“My wife,” he said.
The Canosa’s daughter, present in the courtroom, ran out upon hearing her father’s voice, returning minutes later. Mrs. Canosa wept, covering her face with her hands, looking to her daughter and giving a pronounced frown. Even Wheeler was shaken hearing the recording of Canosa from beyond the grave.
The day of the shooting
The commonwealth continued on, repeating Mr. Canosa’s first declaration of who the shooter was: “The bitch shot me in the back,” Wheeler said of testimony from OCSO Deputy Seth Boyd, the first officer on the scene.
The defendant called her husband from outside his residence at 5:40 a.m. the morning of the shooting and told him to come outside, Wheeler said. When he did, Brenda Canosa said, “Sorry, Bob,” and began shooting. When he fell down, the defendant kicked her husband in the groin, Wheeler said, and when he got up, she chased him around vehicles in the parking lot, firing as she went, leaving a trail of blood on the gravel.
Besides Boyd, Bob Canosa told several other colleagues that his wife was the shooter the day he was shot and in the final days of his life. At one point, he told his daughter that her mother was not the shooter because, according to Wheeler, he said, “I wanted my children to have both parents.”
Other evidence presented by the commonwealth against Mrs. Canosa included DNA evidence of her husband’s blood on the seat and steering wheel of her vehicle, parked at the family home in Rochelle about 25 miles from the crime scene; gunshot residue on the defendant’s hands and blood on her shoes at the Madison County home, all of which was recovered the day of the shooting.
“Inside the laundry room … was a wet and apparently just-washed woman’s outfit, including a wool dry clean-only winter coat, a sweater, a pair of jeans, socks, a bra, and one pair of panties,” Wheeler said, pulling out the items in court Thursday, entering them as evidence in the case; Mrs. Canosa shook her head in response.
The couple’s separation eight months before the murder was far from amicable, according to the commonwealth. It started when Brenda Canosa refused to allow Bob to come home, and he was later offered an apartment in the K-9 training center in Unionville owned by OCSO Chief Deputy Lt. Col Tim Murphy.
From the marital split to the shooting at that location, Mrs. Canosa, a member of the woman’s club and a cheerleading coach who belonged to the country club, called her husband 1,515 times on her cell phone, according to Wheeler.
She called him another 632 times from her home phone.
During the separation, Brenda Canosa also apparently mailed “anonymous” letters to various local officials in which she purported to be a concerned citizen raising concern “about the lax morals of Bob Canosa,” according to Wheeler.
The Orange County Sheriff, members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, a Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputy who had run for office in Orange and local newspaper editors all received such letters – the original handwritten versions of which were later found in a tote bag containing Mrs. Canosa’s school work, the commonwealth said.
The defendant had a camera with pictures of the interior of Mr. Canosa’s apartment on it and had recently purchased a GPS system, Wheeler went on, saying Mr. Canosa claimed his wife attacked him with a hammer, threw his clothes out the car window on a vacation during a failed attempt at reconciliation and cancelled his debit card.
In final comments, the commonwealth said they entered a plea because the main objective was to convict Brenda Canosa of first degree murder and for her to receive a substantial jail sentence. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Moore said sentencing guidelines call for an average sentence of 30 years and 10 months – “more than sufficient to serve the ends of justice.”
The commonwealth also listed among its reasons for entering a plea as: The circumstantial nature of the case, an uncertain outcome at jury trial due to possible sympathy for the defendant, the numerous legal issues raised and to allow a sense of “finality” for the family and the community.
“Clearly, at this point, where Bob Canosa’s children have already lost their father, and are about to lose their mother for a period of time, we believe it would not be his wishes that what little financial resources they have left would be spent on further legal services,” Moore said.
Defense disagrees with marital portrayal
He said they didn’t agree with the prosecution’s portrayal of the marital troubles, and how much of what they said in that regard would have been inadmissible at trial.
Zwerling asked the court to put that evidence in its “proper place.”
In addition, the defense claimed it had “explanations” to refute much of what the commonwealth said, “neutralizing” factors on their client’s part, Zwerling said.
“For example, she changed her will to make her children her benefactors instead of the husband,” he said. That means she was planning to die before her husband, an indication of “suicidal thoughts and not murder,” the defense said.
Judge: evidence sufficient
Judge Bouton said the quality of evidence presented against Mrs. Canosa was sufficient to convince him of her guilt. He acknowledged, however, various pieces of disputed evidence in the case and its domestic nature and the impact that might have on a jury in saying a plea agreement was appropriate.
“It was by no means slapped together at the last minute to avoid a lengthy trial,” he said.
Bouton said it was a “well thought out agreement” that served the ends of justice.