Robert Cash sentenced to 38 years in prison
April 6, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs resident Robert Cash was sentenced to 38 years in prison Friday for crimes against his former wife that Judge Shelley Hill described as unthinkable and tantamount to torture.
"She is a victim of every single minute of every single day, and that is an impossible life to live," Hill said in her Routt County Justice Center courtroom.
On Jan. 19, a 12-member jury found Cash, 57 at the time, guilty of attempted first-degree murder for shooting his then-wife Rhonda Heaton in the back of the neck on June 11, 2010, at their west Steamboat Springs home.
Heaton told jurors during the trial that Cash refused to call an ambulance after shooting her and that he continued to check on her in their bedroom to see if she had died. She testified that Cash said he shot her "so you can't destroy anyone's life like mine." The couple was going through a divorce and was in the process of losing their home to foreclosure. Cash recently had lost his job, as well.
Cash also was found guilty of domestic violence and crime of violence, which is a sentence enhancer resulting from Cash having used a deadly weapon. He faced a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 48 years.
Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle asked Hill to impose the maximum sentence because it would give Heaton some piece of mind that she would never be harmed again.
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"She was trapped, terrified and helpless knowing that Robert Cash had just shot her, knowing that Robert Cash was still in the house, knowing that Robert Cash had a gun and wanted her to die," Prindle said.
Heaton testified during the trial but did not speak at Friday's sentencing. Instead, District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham read a statement on her behalf.
Heaton wrote that she cannot keep her balance, has constant pain, memory problems and post-traumatic stress disorder and can no longer feel her hands or feet.
"I can no longer feel my children's faces or hands," she wrote. "My children have nightmares of me being dead, and they feel guilty that they were not there."
Heaton wrote that she no longer trusts people, has panic attacks daily, screams uncontrollably and has nightmares of Cash killing her.
"He haunts me now, and the thought of him on the streets would be intolerable," Heaton wrote.
Heaton stated she is no longer able to work, owes $5,000 to the government and cannot afford her medication or pay medical and credit card bills. She said she is bankrupt but cannot afford to declare bankruptcy.
"I had to pay $5,000 to an attorney for a divorce from a man who tried to kill me," Heaton wrote.
The 38-year sentence came despite a plea from Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann for a sentence of between 16 and 20 years. She told the court that Cash was referred to by some as "the gentle giant" who worked at City Market and had no significant criminal history or a history of violence.
"That was his reputation in this community up to this offense," Uhlmann said.
She argued that older people with no criminal history were less likely to commit future offenses after incarceration and told the court it costs taxpayers $32,300 per year to keep a person in prison.
Cash, who testified in his own defense during the trial and said the shooting was an accident, spoke before being sentenced Friday.
"I am just sorry for what happened," Cash said. "I wish I could change things, but I can't. I pray for Rhonda every day."
Cash was given credit for 660 days already served. Hill did not say when or if Cash would be eligible for parole.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com