Donna Best Hoffmann, 19, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for the murder of her husband last December. She will be eligible for parole in 12 years.
"Without your initiation, Michael Hoffmann would be alive today," Judge Jacob S. Levin told Hoffmann before sentencing her in Prince George's County Circuit Court. "You had every opportunity during the entire course of the event to stop it."
Hoffmann, who told another judge last month that she is six or seven months pregnant, became teary-eyed after Judge Levin pronounced her sentence. Then a sheriff's deputy handcuffed her and led her from the courtroom.
Hoffmann was convicted in July of first degree murder and of being an accessory after the fact in the murder. During the trial, prosecutor Michael Whalen maintained that Hoffmann had asked her boyfriend, John Penkert, to kill her husband, that she helped Penkert and four other men plan her husband's murder, that she drove her husband to the murder scene, watched as he was shot, and that she paid the gunman, George Harvey, $100.
The body of Michael Hoffmann, 20, was discovered in Black Swamp Creek in Aquasco on Dec. 16, the day after the murder. Donna Hoffmann had been married to her husband, a civilian clerk at Andrews Air Force Base, for three months.
Hoffmann was taken to theWomen's House of Corrections in Jessup, Md. When she is ready to give birth, she will go to a local hospital and then will return to the jail, said Department of Correction officials.
Hoffmann will not be allowed to keep her child with her in jail, officials said. She will have to give her child to a foster home if her parents, her sister or a friend do not choose to raise her child, said a spokesman for the Department of Social Services.
Hoffmann's lawyer, Karl Feissner, said that Hoffmann wants to raise her child in jail.
"That may involve a suit," he said, since women are not allowed to keep their children with them in jail in Maryland.
Feissner told Judge Levin yesterday that he intends to appeal Hoffmann's conviction. He asked Levin to send Hoffmann to the Patuxent jail in Jessup for a psychiatric evaluation, and Levin agreed. If she is admitted there for psychiatric therapy, she could be released before 12 years.
Although only men presently are jailed at Patuxent, Hoffmann could be admitted there if she qualifies for the therapy, said a jail spokesman.
Donna Hoffmann grew up in District Heights, the daughter of a housewife and a truck driver. She dropped out of Suitland High School at the beginning of the 11th grade and held a succession of jobs as a clerk, waitress, salesgirl and babysitter.
She and Michael Hoffmann had dated since the 10th grade, but last summer she began dating Penkert steadily. A few months later, she married Hoffmann.
She was the only one of the six defendants in the case to have a trial. The other five pleaded guilty to first degree murder or conspiracy to commit murder and received sentences ranging from life in prison to life with all but 15 years suspended.