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Unusual sentence for wife of slain basketball star

Maria Garcia-Pellon, found guilty but mentally ill of killing her husband, former University of Pennsylvania basketball star Matt White, could have been sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Maria Garcia-Pellon, found guilty but mentally ill of killing her husband, former University of Pennsylvania basketball star Matt White, could have been sentenced to 25 years in jail.

But, saying he thought her treatment would be inadequate in a state prison, Delaware County Court Judge Kevin Kelly crafted a sentence that calls for Garcia-Pellon to be paroled as soon as possible to Norristown State Hospital.

Officially, he sentenced the Nether Providence woman to up to 23 months in jail with an additional 23 years of probation. But she is to be transferred to the psychiatric facility when a bed becomes available.

"It is a really good result," said Thomas A. Bergstrom, her attorney. "It's the result this judge has really worked hard to obtain."

Garcia-Pellon, who waived credit for the two years already served in the county jail, would be eligible to be released from the hospital after 90 days. Kelly ordered that upon release she serve 18 months of electronic home monitoring, monthly blood tests to monitor medication levels, and weekly contact with the Delaware County Adult Probation and the Parole Office's Mental Health Unit.

Kelly said he considered the opinions of medical experts, explored what treatments were available in prisons, met with the county's Mental Health Treatment Court probation and parole department, and recognized the support Garcia-Pellon would have within her community and family.

"He is the hero of this story," said Kathleen M. Magee, Garcia-Pellon's longtime friend and attorney.

Early on Feb. 11, 2013, Garcia-Pellon, 54, killed White as he slept. Hours before, he had taken her to Riddle Hospital when he became concerned about her delusional behavior. She was discharged with an appointment for follow-up treatment with a psychiatrist.

Hours after she stabbed White, Garcia-Pellon showed up at a friend's home and announced she had killed her husband because he was viewing child pornography. No pornographic images were found on any of the computers in the home, detectives testified.

She later told doctors she killed her husband because she was worried he would not let her get word out that an attack similar to the Sandy Hook, Conn., school shootings of December 2012 soon would happen.

That night, Garcia-Pellon hid two kitchen knives by their bed, and, when White fell asleep, killed him.

During the nonjury trial, experts testified that at the time of the slaying, she had been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder. Her attorneys said Garcia-Pellon had been suffering from mental illness since 2001 and was fine while on medications.

At sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McGee said she was in a unique position.

"I had a [victim's] family that is supporting the defendant," McGee said.

Throughout the trial, White's family broke with tradition and sat behind Garcia-Pellon in support.

"I'm really sorry for what happened," said Garcia-Pellon, before the sentence was imposed. She acknowledged that she was unaware of her mental illness.

"I know I have to take the medication for the rest of my life," she said.

Once released, Garcia-Pellon will live in an apartment with her daughter, Anna White Garcia, as approved by the courts.

Garcia-Pellon and her husband, who had two adult children, met in Spain, where White played professional basketball. He was the starting center on the 1979 University of Pennsylvania team that reached the NCAA Final Four and was an NBA draft pick. Garcia-Pellon was a longtime teacher's aide in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.

On Friday, as sheriff's deputies escorted Garcia-Pellon from the courtroom in handcuffs, she turned to her family and friends, smiled, waved, and blew them a kiss.