Nancy Fontaine's attorney characterized her as a submissive woman who, battered with some 80 bruises, merely defended herself the night she stabbed her husband to death.
The prosecutor in her murder trial instead placed the blame on 46-year-old Fontaine for her husband's death and for her own injuries.
"People who drink get a lot of bruises," Managing Assistant Solicitor Jennifer Shealy said. "She's got bruises all over her, except where she says Bobby Fontaine hit her."
A jury on Friday placed Fontaine somewhere between those two descriptions.
Jurors deliberated for several hours before reaching a verdict early in the evening. They found Fontaine not guilty of murder but guilty of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. That crime carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Fontaine, a James Island resident who worked as a consumer safety officer for the Food and Drug Administration before her arrest last year, admitted that she stabbed her 58-year-old husband at his Edisto Island home in March 2010. They kept separate residences for work reasons, she testified.
On a weekend visit to her husband's home, Fontaine brought a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne, she said in court.
The couple drank both bottles and headed out to some bars, where a man began talking with Nancy.
The night unraveled from there. Her husband wanted to leave, and grabbed her when she twice refused, she testified.
They arrived at his house and he dragged, kicked and pushed her, she said in court. So she dashed into the kitchen and grabbed a 7.5-inch knife.
When her husband approached her suddenly, she said she shoved the blade at him, then watched in shock as he grabbed his chest from a 4-inch wound. Her attorney, Jerry Theos, called the killing a justified act.
"The only thing she could think of was getting inside that house and how to make him stop," Theos said. "The only thing she's guilty of is defending herself."
Shealy countered, "If you're drinking and do something like take a man's life, that's no defense."
Theos instead pointed out that his client stayed on the phone with 911 after the incident. "Somebody who is intent on killing, they're not going to do this," he said.
Theos also noted that the primary detective in the case never testified, and that some investigative notes had been destroyed. Shealy countered that the detective's testimony would have been redundant, and that suggesting any impropriety in the trashed notes was "insulting."
Attorneys plan to have Fontaine evaluated by a psychiatrist before her sentencing hearing.
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