A woman who fatally shot her 74-year-old great-aunt in the victim’s Tierrasanta home more than five years ago was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in state prison.
Tiffany Nicole Burney, 28, was convicted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 14, 2011, death of Daisy Mae Hayes. A different jury found the defendant was sane at the time of the murder.
The victim’s husband of 55 years, Elmer Hayes, said his life was turned upside down when his wife was killed.
“It felt like someone drove a stake in my heart,” he said in a letter to the court. “I miss her (Daisy) so much.”
Directing his comments to the defendant, Elmer Hayes wrote, “What you did put a heavy load on me. You slaughtered her and you slaughtered my life.”
One of the victim’s daughters, Regina Hayes, told the defendant that she murdered the woman considered to be the matriarch of the family.
“You shattered my world,” Regina Hayes said. “You brought my whole world down.”
Another of Hayes’ daughters, Kimberly Gray, said she still has her mother in her dreams.
“After today, my family will be able to sleep at night,” she told the defendant.
Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Eugenia Eyherabide denied a defense motion for a new trial.
Deputy Public Defender Kevin Haughton argued that despite the jury’s verdict, there was overwhelming evidence that Burney was insane at the time of the murder. Haughton said Burney had persistent delusions that her intelligence had been stolen.
Haughton said Burney — who was diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia — started hearing voices at age 11 and was first hospitalized for mental illness when she was 13.
The judge pointed out that Burney bought a gun and shot Hayes — who was like a second grandmother to her — while the victim was home alone.
Deputy District Attorney Marisa Di Tillio said Burney was angry that she didn’t measure up to the rest of the family and decided to take it out on Hayes, who was considered the “heart” of the family.
Burney showed up at the victim’s door sometime after 3 a.m. and asked to use the bathroom, Di Tillio said.
As Hayes waited on a couch, Burney emerged from the bathroom with a gun drawn and shot her four times in the face.
Burney fled the scene and called police a few days later after checking into a hospital.
The defendant confessed to the killing and told police she was angry because “everyone was winning and I was losing,” according to Di Tillio.
—City News Service
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: