A Sterling minister who tried to lure a parishioner into a scheme in which each man would murder the other's wife--even providing detailed instructions for a drive-by shooting--was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison.

James Elrod Ogle, 46, a former Herndon High School math teacher who became an evangelical minister, broke into tears in Prince William County Circuit Court as he tried to explain his actions. Judge Frank A. Hoss Jr. sentenced Ogle to 25 years for attempted capital murder and solicitation of a felony, but he suspended 17 of those years.

"I want to apologize to my wife and my children, to my friends and to my congregation for the allegations that have been charged against me," Ogle told the court. "I know what the evidence suggests, but it was never my intention to put my wife's life in danger."

No attack was carried out.

Since his arrest in February, Ogle has offered several different explanations for why he planned the killing of his wife, Judy Ogle. He told police that he was in love with another woman and, because he did not believe in divorce, wanted his wife "out of the way." He also told investigators that he blamed his wife for the downfall of his Manassas Bible Church--which was disbanded after the church elders heard allegations of his infidelity--and for previous career failures over their 25-year marriage.

In his statement to the court yesterday, Ogle said that when he discussed the murder plot with parishioner Scott Jinks, who came to Ogle with his own marital troubles, he was only creating a "fantasy" in a biblical lesson that was intended to help Jinks recognize his own "sins."

William J. Baker, Ogle's attorney, argued that Ogle had no intention of carrying out the crime but instead was relying on God to intervene by having Jinks dissuade him from the murder plot. Instead, Jinks went to police.

After Jinks told authorities of the plot--eerily similar to that in the Alfred Hitchcock film "Strangers on a Train"--detectives videotaped a lengthy meeting between Ogle and Jinks at a McDonald's restaurant outside Manassas. At that meeting, Ogle presented Jinks with $200 to buy a silencer and alternately discussed possible murder methods and passages in the Bible, which he had spread open on the table.

"Mr. Ogle went off the deep end, and that's the best I can describe it," Baker said.

The judge said he did not understand Ogle's explanation of the murder plot, calling it "simply a plan for taking this woman's life." Hoss, who could have sentenced Ogle to life in prison, said he took Ogle's clean record into consideration when giving him eight years.

At a court hearing in June, Ogle entered what is known as an Alford plea, which is recorded as a conviction; the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict him. Ogle told Hoss that he wanted to protect his family from further grief and the publicity of a trial.

Judy Ogle has declined to comment since her husband's arrest and has not attended any of his court hearings. Ogle said yesterday that he has tried several times to contact his wife, but that she has refused to answer. Three of Ogle's four children were in the courtroom yesterday but declined to comment.

Yesterday, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he thought Ogle "deserved more" time in prison. Ebert said that Judy Ogle, in hindsight, recalled at least three earlier possible attempts on her life, all of which she recounted in her victim impact statement to the court.

Ogle said yesterday that his wife's accusations were born out of delusions. But Ebert said Ogle was "intelligent enough to be conniving" and said it was fortunate that he had proposed his plot to a parishioner who was a law-abiding citizen.

"If this man had gotten what he had planned, his wife would be dead," Ebert said. "He'd be back on the pulpit, and he'd be pitied and respected."