A former Patuxent Institution correctional officer was sentenced yesterday to 50 years in prison for murdering his estranged wife last year at the Kennedy Krieger Institute where she worked.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe sentenced Michael Hudgins to the maximum term allowed under his plea bargain, giving him 30 years for second-degree murder and 20 years, to be served consecutively, for a handgun conviction.
Hudgins, 30, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and using a handgun in a crime of violence in the Aug. 3, 1992, shooting death of Donna Hudgins, 27, at the institute in the 2900 block of E. Biddle St. In return, prosecutors dropped a charge of first-degree murder.
Hudgins shot his wife as her co-workers looked on, ending what appeared to be an increasingly violent marriage. She had charged him with assault after he allegedly pistol-whipped her; he had charged her with threatening him with a gun.
Verdell Heath, an employee of the institute that helps children with disabilities, told the court yesterday that several employees remain shaken by the slaying, adding, "I can still smell the gunsmoke."
Recalling the last seconds of Donna Hudgins' life, Ms. Heath told the court: "At 4:30, there was scuffling next to me; there were shots, and I ran around and saw Donna lying there dead. The last words I ever heard from Donna were, 'What are you doing? What do you think you're doing?' And then I heard the shots."
Before being sentenced, Hudgins said that he had told a psychiatrist that he was considering a plan to kill his wife and then himself, but this "reaching out" had met with no response.
Prosecutor Mark Cohen said the crime was "akin to a stalking," and he said that Hudgins' claim that a suicide bid failed when the gun misfired should not be believed because all nine of the semi-automatic handgun's bullets had been fired into Mrs. Hudgins.