NewsCrimeTaking Action Against Domestic Violence


Local woman charged for killing husband; attorney says years of abuse forced her to stand her ground

Posted at 3:47 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 08:39:06-04

Over three years ago, Sabrina Hendley allegedly shot her husband Mark Hendley. But witnesses described Sabrina as hysterical just moments after prosecutors said she pulled the trigger during a pool party in May 2018.

Hillsborough County deputies took Sabrina into custody, still in her bathing suit, and charged her with second-degree murder.

"What I hear from the 911 call is a woman, who's in severe distress over having to shoot her husband, but not wanting to do so. You know, many people who kill, kill from malice or remorse, not from necessity. And this is a woman who's distressing and regretful for having done what she felt she had to do," said Todd Foster, Sabrina's attorney.


Foster is arguing Sabrina acted in self-defense after her husband, Mark, was allegedly verbally and physically abusive all day long to her and to others.

"This was a very volatile night. That her husband had been violent, not only with her prior to the shooting, but with her father. And with her friend who was visiting," Foster explained.

And sworn testimony by witnesses backs that up.

According to Sabrina's father, Mike Irwin, he told detectives "...and then just out of the blue, he sucker-punches me. So I get up, you know, I'm seeing stars. And he is like, 'well, what are you going to do? Come on.' And he sucker-punches me again. And then he jumps on my back and starts choking me."

Foster said based on further testimony, the violence continued throughout the day.

"The father also provided evidence that he witnessed Mark slap Sabrina. So there was a lot of drinking that night. And the testimony has been that with increased alcohol, there were increased levels of violence and abuse," Foster said.


And that increased violence was documented by a neighbor also at the house that evening, swimming with Mark and Sabrina until she said Mark got violent.

In a written deposition, Lorelei Polatz said, "He did put his arm around my neck and had me in the choke-hold. The water was above my nose and I sat there for at least 20 minutes. I'm freaking out. I sucked in tons of water."

She went on to say, "He grabs me again, and he brought me in the same choke-hold right back to the deep-end, where I couldn't reach and then I went right under again."

Lorelei also said Mark threatened Sabrina that night with a "big military-looking knife" to her face while on their patio in testimony saying, "He puts it in front of her face and he's waving it. That's when she starts getting more scared. He just kept on having that knife right in her face and having her by her neck, like a choke-hold. And saying 'What's wrong little wife, you don't like the knife? You don't like the knife?'"

Sabrina also testified she was in fear of her life and tried to run away.


During an interrogation, Sabrina told detectives, "I remember getting out of the backyard, and I remember running down the street. And I remember him getting me. And him pulling me back into the house. And then I remember getting back out again and hiding behind a car."

Toward the end of the evening, Sabrina was alone in a bedroom with Mark and Foster said she was still in fear for her life.

"We believe that Mark was approaching her, and she had a weapon drawn, and in order to defend herself before he came close enough to take the weapon from her or to batter her, or to hurt her physically, that she shot one round in self-defense," Foster explained.

Sabrina acknowledged her fear saying during the interrogation, "He's going to beat the sh*t out of me if I don't shoot this gun right now."

"This is like a whole evening of violence. And then confronted unexpectedly in that bedroom with this situation," Foster said.

"I've never defended a case where a woman has taken a life in defense of her family before. But I did take this case," said Julie Weintraub, who's a domestic violence advocate and founder of Hands Across The Bay.

Julie heard about Sabrina's case and immediately wanted to help.

"This particular one, I'm fighting with all that I have. This mother should be reunited with her children and not face charges," Julie explained.

Julie believes Sabrina acted in self-defense and needed to stand her ground.

"If this situation where there's that much violence going on in the house, and she ends up being charged, this is not a safe country for women to live in at all," Julie said emphatically.

According to testimony, there was a history of domestic violence between Sabrina and Mark.

"It was a volatile marriage that, according to the testimony, came out in court did include many instances of verbal and likely physical abuse," Foster said.

Sabrina admitted to prior physical abuse and told detectives about a fight a few years back, "My husband just did a leg sweep and knocked my head to the concrete. I just went to the VA and told them I fell down."

Sabrina's father, who lived with the couple to help take care of the children, also testified that he knew there was domestic violence in the home before saying, "Yeah, he has hit her before."

And the neighbor, Lorelei, said she also saw evidence of abuse in the past saying Sabrina, "...did have a bruise here on her left side. It was like a cut and another bruise on her head from Mark hitting her."

Foster is arguing "Stand Your Ground" and hoping to get the whole case thrown out.

"She was forced to make a decision to either shoot to defend herself or sustain death or great bodily harm," Foster said.

Julie also believes Sabrina should not be charged, as she was forced to defend herself.

"At some point, women need to be able to stand their ground," Julie said.

The next hearing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 1 at 8:30 a.m. and could decide if Sabrina's "Stand Your Ground" defense was reasonable and if the case will be thrown out.

If the judge denies that request, she will go to trial on second-degree murder charges. And if convicted, she could face 25 years to life in prison.