A South Jersey woman who fatally shot her wife three years ago, then started digging a grave in the backyard of their Mount Holly home, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison.
Laura Bluestein, 31, told investigators that she and Felicia Dormans had an at-times-difficult relationship and bickered over things like cleaning the dishes, doing laundry, and paying bills.
But she said Wednesday that when she shot Dormans, 29, in the face while in their bedroom on the afternoon of Aug. 6, 2017, it was “truly an accident. .... Felicia was and still is the love of my life.”
In February, a Burlington County jury of 10 women and two men convicted Bluestein of aggravated manslaughter — a killing recklessly committed with an extreme indifference to human life — and with tampering with evidence for cleaning and moving the body.
Assistant Prosecutor Jeremy Lackey asked the judge for a sentence of 30 years in prison, the maximum term for first-degree aggravated manslaughter. The victim’s family also asked for the maximum.
Superior Court Judge Terrence Cook, in sentencing Bluestein to 15 years in state prison with parole eligibility after she serves 85% of the sentence, plus five years of parole, said: “This is a terrible situation: Two families forever affected by the reckless conduct of this defendant.”
“No court can give the Dormans what they really want,” Cook said.
The victim’s parents were in the courtroom during the hearing, which was livestreamed.
“Every day, [we] wake up to a huge hole in our hearts,” Joe Dormans told the judge. Then, as if speaking to his daughter, he said, crying: “My little girl, I love and miss you every day with my heart. And I love you so much.”
“I wake up in pain and I go to sleep in pain,” the victim’s mother, Christina, said. “There are days when I really walk around in a fog and go through the motions. I no longer trust anyone.”
Defense attorney Robin Lord maintained that “what happened was a horrific tragedy and an accident.” She said she plans to appeal.
She said Bluestein suffered from drug addiction for years, yet tried to help Dormans with her own problems. Lord disputed that Bluestein had a history of physically abusing Dormans.
Bluestein’s parents, who were in the courtroom, expressed remorse to Dormans’ parents. Jason Bluestein, who contacted police after his daughter called to tell him of Dormans’ death, said his daughter and Dormans loved each other. Marjorie Bluestein described how Dormans was part of their family.
According to surveillance video, Laura Bluestein went to a Lowe’s store after the shooting and bought two shovels and blue tarps. After she returned home, she began digging a grave in the yard, prosecutors said.
Mount Holly police officers who arrived at the couple’s Mill Street home after Bluestein’s father called 911 waited several minutes before Bluestein opened the door, then found Dormans’ body on a tarp in the bedroom.