April 21, 2018
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Husband gets 12 years in wife’s slaying

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge late Tuesday afternoon sentenced a red-faced and weeping Jeremy Hart, 35, of LaGrange to 15 years in prison with all but 12 years suspended for killing his wife during a drug-fueled party at the their home nearly a year ago.

Presiding in Penobscot County Superior Court, Justice William Anderson also sentenced Hart to four years of probation and ordered him to pay $1,721 in restitution to the Victim’s Compensation Fund, which paid out funds to assist his children, and to forfeit the gun he used to shoot his wife, Kristen Smart Hart, 24, on Nov. 29, 2007.

“This is certainly a tragic crime,” Anderson said. “It’s tragic for the parents and the family of the victim. It’s tragic for the parents of the defendant. It’s most tragic for the [Hart] children. How tragic it is is quite compelling.”

Hart pleaded guilty on Oct. 15 to manslaughter in the death of his wife. He admitted shooting her in the couple’s bedroom after he found a man who had been partying at the house sitting on their bed. Kristen Hart died of a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted when she apparently was hiding under the bed, according to court documents.

“Kristen and I were happily married for 10 years,” Hart told the judge Tuesday. “We both loved each other a lot; we built a house together. We lived a happy, carefree life. We spent 24 hours a day together raising our children.

“It was never my intent to hurt my family this way,” he continued. “I ask for forgiveness from her family and mercy from the court. I ask that I be able to be with my children before it is too late for it to matter to them.”

The victim’s mother, Glenda Smart, and two of Kristen Hart’s sisters, Julie Smart, 20, and Vanessa Smart, 25, all of LaGrange, urged Anderson to sentence Hart to the 15-year maximum outlined in the plea agreement.

The defendant’s parents, Ronald Hart and Denise Phanstiel, both of California, asked that whatever sentence was imposed allow their son to spend time with his children. Hart and Phanstiel divorced when their son was 3. Jeremy and Kristen Hart’s oldest child, now 9, lives with Phanstiel. The two other children, ages 2 and 6, live with Ronald Hart.

Jeremy Hart faced a maximum sentence of 30 years and a minimum of four years in prison. In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than 15 years. Benson recommended the sentence the judge imposed.

Defense attorney Stephen Smith of Bangor asked that more of the sentence be suspended. He urged the judge to send Hart to prison for between six and eight years with a period of probation.

Hart was arrested a few days after his wife’s death and held at the Penobscot County Jail until mid-June, when his father posted $100,000 cash bail. Hart was arrested on Oct. 20 and charged with violating his bail conditions by using drugs and not notifying the court that he had moved.

On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating a condition of release and was sentenced to six months in jail, to be served concurrently with his manslaughter sentence.

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