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Originally published June 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 5, 2008 at 4:20 PM

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Woman sentenced to 22 years in prison for plotting slaying of her husband

A Des Moines woman accused of plotting the 2005 slaying of her husband that was made to look like a carjacking was sentenced to 22 years in prison for first-degree murder.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Des Moines woman who masterminded her husband's 2005 slaying sobbed as she pleaded for forgiveness in court this morning, but her tears were spurned by a judge who called her self-defense argument a lie.

Velma Ogden-Whitehead, 50, walked into court anticipating the 20- year sentence worked out by prosecutors and her defense attorney in a plea agreement. Instead, King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez sentenced her to 22 years behind bars.

Ogden-Whitehead claimed that the slaying was in reaction to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her husband of 10 years, which drew a sharp rebuke from Gonzalez.

"You are the perpetrator, not the victim you claim to be," Gonzalez said. "Your claims of abuse and suffering are hollow."

Ronald Whitehead, 61, was fatally shot near SeaTac while driving to work on March 18, 2005. Prosecutors say that Ogden-Whitehead recruited her son, who hired classmate Wilson Sayachack to carry out the slaying.

After her husband was found dead, Ogden-Whitehead appealed publicly for help finding the killer. For more than a year after the slaying, police examined his wife's finances and personal relationships. Investigators say that Ogden-Whitehead and her husband had a rocky marriage and that she had an affair with a fellow employee at the auto-parts store where she worked.

When she pleaded guilty last month Ogden-Whitehead admitted giving Sayachack information about her husband's schedule.

In court today, Ogden-Whitehead read from a handwritten note as she apologized for the slaying

"There are not enough words to express my remorse for what this has done to my family," she said. "I deeply regret that I took matters into my own hands. I made a poor choice."

Prosecutors say Sayachack, 16 at the time of the slaying, hid in the trunk of Whitehead's car while Jon Ogden, Whitehead's stepson, was in the passenger seat. The slaying was intended to look like a carjacking, police said.

Sayachack — the accused shooter — has been tried twice for his alleged role in the slaying. The first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't agree on a verdict. The second trial ended in a mistrial in April when a key witness came forward and a handgun thought to be the murder weapon was discovered during the trial, requiring more investigation time for attorneys.

The handgun, which has been tested since it was discovered by police in an unrelated drug seizure in Puyallup, turned out to be the murder weapon, said Craig Peterson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

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Ogden is scheduled to go to trial July 21, and Sayachack's third trial is scheduled for Sept. 22.

Whitehead's family unleashed their anger on Ogden-Whitehead in court today, calling her a manipulative, sadistic, coldblooded murderer who was motivated by money. They said that today was the first time they had ever heard Ogden-Whitehead claim she was a victim of domestic violence. The slain Boeing worker's daughter, her fiancee and Whitehead's stepsister pleaded for a harsh sentence.

"Velma, you stole Ron's future from him, from me and from my brother," Kimberley Whitehead, the slain man's daughter, said looking toward Ogden-Whitehead. "You have broken our hearts. You have made me an orphan."

Gonzalez told Ogden-Whitehead that the abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Whitehead was an "insult to him [Whitehead] and his memory."

"You played the part of a grieving widow and a crime victim as you spend money on your lover," Gonzalez said. "Your tears are not for making your son a murderer, nor are they for Mr. Whitehead. Your tears are for yourself."

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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