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Ford sentenced to 20 years in prison

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By Calen McKinney

She will be almost 60 before she could have a chance at regaining her freedom.

Dressed in sweats, Tonya Ford walks with her attorney to appear before a judge and hear how many years she will spend in prison for murdering her husband.

Her handcuffs clink together as she moves.

A jury found Ford, 39, guilty on Aug. 24 of shooting and killing her husband, David Ford, 40, who worked as a police officer in Lebanon.

Ford's trial began Aug. 20 in Taylor Circuit Court. After hearing opening and closing statements and from several witnesses, jurors spent 12 hours deliberating Ford's guilt. After finding her guilty, jurors took about five minutes to agree to recommend that Ford should spend 20 years in prison for her crime.

And on Tuesday of last week, Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly followed that recommendation and sentenced Ford to serve two decades in prison.

Judges don't have to follow jury recommendations, though they typically do. As murder is a Class A felony, Ford faced as much as life in prison.

Since murder is a violent crime, Ford will serve 85 percent of the 20-year prison sentence - 17 years - before being eligible for parole.

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Ford's attorney, Danny Butler of Greensburg, asked Kelly to allow Ford to spend some time with her family before being taken back to her cell at the Taylor County Detention Center.

"I honored that request at trial," Kelly said. "I'm not going to honor it today for security reasons."

After sentencing Ford, Kelly said that she will be transported to meet Department of Corrections officials, who will determine where she will serve her sentence.

Before leaving the room, Ford waved to her family and friends. Officer Ford's family also attended the hearing.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Miller, the prosecutor in the case, said he expected Ford to receive 20 years in prison.

"This is a sad situation for Ms. Ford, her family and David Ford's family," he said. "There were no winners in this situation."

Butler did not return a phone call before press time to comment on Ford's sentence.

Ford's aunt, Janie Cole, who lives in Michigan but attended Ford's trial, said she believes Ford is innocent.

"All I can say is, she's not guilty," Cole said. "I just know her. She's a sweetheart. She takes care of my brother. He don't have anybody to take care of him."

Officer Ford's brother, Darrell Ford, said the past three years have been hard on him and his family.

"I'm glad it's over," he said. "[We] wish we'd never gone through this."

Darrell Ford said he wishes that his brother and Tonya Ford had simply gotten a divorce. Then, he said, his brother might be alive and she might be out prison and be with her children.

"It's bittersweet," he said. "We had a lot of people praying for us."

Darrell Ford said he appreciates the work prosecutors and Kentucky State Police Detective Isreal Sliker put into the case.

"We got the best we could have got out of this," he said.

In 2010, Darrell Ford said his brother's murder brought him closer to his family and in his faith, though he at times felt that God was testing him.

"I still ask the question, 'Why did this happen?'"

Ford was accused of shooting and killing her husband on Feb. 10, 2009. She pleaded not guilty in November 2010 and has maintained her innocence.

Officer Ford, 40, was found shot to death in his head at his Graham Road home in Campbellsville. Ford called the Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 Center and said she had arrived at the home and found that her husband had been shot.

Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney said in 2009 that an autopsy confirmed Officer Ford's death as a homicide.

Ford's story will be featured on an upcoming episode of "Snapped," a true crime documentary television show that airs on the Oxygen network.

Her episode, which will feature interviews with several attorneys, investigators, friends and family members, is slated to air in late December.