A Lodi woman accused of stabbing a man to death last summer pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter.
Judy Lynn Fromm, now 44, has been jailed since Aug. 15, when she stabbed 38-year-old Dwayne Kelly Henderson on Sacramento Street just north of Lockeford street.
Fromm, who knew Henderson, faces up to four years in state prison and will be sentenced March 22. A number of Henderson's family members sat in a Stockton courtroom Monday, listening and crying as Fromm pleaded guilty.
"Someone they love is gone. Regardless of what happened in the courtroom, every time they have a gathering for Christmas or his birthday, he won't be there," said Deputy District Attorney Donald Vaughn, who prosecuted the case.
Fromm's plea was not a bargain with prosecutors. Rather, Judge Peter Saiers told her that she would receive a maximum sentence of four years in prison — three for manslaughter and an additional year for use of a knife.
The minimum sentence could be probation. Sentencing is up to Saiers, who will review letters from family members, listen to attorneys and review a probation officer's report on whether Fromm would do well on probation, as opposed to prison. For Carol Shockley, who once dated Henderson and has remained in touch with his family, hearing Fromm's guilty plea brought up plenty of emotions.
"I don't know what was harder, when the police came and told me he was killed, when we buried him or now," she said.
Fromm, Henderson and Fromm's longtime boyfriend had apparently gotten into an altercation on that August night. Fromm pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed Henderson, just as Lodi Police Sgt. Steve Nelson arrived at the scene after hearing a report about a fight.
Nelson saw Henderson collapse, and he administered first aid until paramedics arrived. Henderson was later pronounced dead at Lodi Memorial Hospital. In the meantime, Nelson had ordered Fromm and her boyfriend to remain at the scene, and they cooperated.
Police initially arrested both, but Fromm's boyfriend was not charged with a crime.
Prosecutors ultimately charged Fromm with voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison. However, sentencing rules dictate that Fromm could have instead faced six or three years, depending on various factors including her lack of a serious criminal history.
The conviction is considered a serious felony, meaning that Fromm will have to serve 85 percent of any prison sentence before she is eligible for parole, Vaughn said. It also counts as a strike under California's three-strikes rule, meaning that Fromm could face much stiffer prison time if she is ever convicted of another felony.
Shockley said Henderson's family members intend to write to the judge to tell him about their loved one. At times Henderson was homeless, though family members have said he had a home at the time he was killed.
Jan. 16 would have been Henderson's birthday, and Shockley said she went to his grave at Cherokee Memorial Park to place flowers and say one more good-bye. She had a feeling Fromm's case wouldn't go all the way to trial, but she does hope that Fromm gets some time in prison.
"God wants us to learn to forgive people for what they've done. I can be comfortable with that," Shockley said. "I know that the four years is going to be enough time for (Fromm) to sit there and think about what she's done. And I believe that karma comes back to bite everybody."