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MADISON, Wis. - A judge sentenced a Massachusetts steelworker to 20 years in prison and eight years of extended supervision in connection with his former girlfriend's shooting death.
Forty-year-old Phillip Byrd pleaded guilty in July to one count of second-degree intentional homicide. He will not be eligible for early release.
"I'm really sorry as far as what I'm putting my family through," Byrd said in court Tuesday. "They don't deserve this and neither does Cheryl's family deserve to not be with her."
Sheriff's deputies discovered Cheryl Gilberg dead in her Mazomanie home in February. Investigators arrested Byrd in Janesville the next day. According to court documents, he told investigators he and Gilberg got into a fight and her gun went off twice during the struggle.
A criminal complaint states that Byrd told detectives that the incident started in her home when Gilberg pointed a gun at him, ordered him to his knees and put a gun in his mouth. He said he was able to knock her hand away and began wrestling with Gilberg and knocked her onto a bed while he tried to get the gun out of her hand. He told detectives that he was able to knock the gun out of her hand, and he tackled her as she retrieved the gun.
Byrd said that while on the floor he was able to get on top of her and hit her again. He told detectives he put a pillow over her face to restrict her vision and was trying to get her finger out of the trigger guard when the gun fired into the pillow. He said it went off again as he continued to try to wrestle the gun out of her hand. He said she didn’t pull the trigger.
Byrd said he thought she was still alive when he left the scene.
Gilberg was shot twice in the head, officials said.
Byrd was arrested the next day on unrelated charges and told detectives, “I want every ramification that gotta happen to me to happen and I won’t resist and I won’t fight it because no matter what happens, it still doesn’t bring her back.” He also expressed remorse for not being able to apologize to Gilberg.
Byrd admitted to fleeing to Janesville and throwing the revolver out of his truck along Highway 14. He told investigators he could barely live with the guilt and wished Wisconsin had the death penalty.
In court Tuesday, Byrd's daughter, Chastity Byrd, said, "I just want my dad to know I love him. I'm here for you. I know for a fact if he could take this back he would."
“Please enforce society's desire to punish and hold accountable domestic violence offenders for the murders they commit and use your sentencing of Phillip Byrd as an illustration that your court will not allow these victims' memories to be diminished,” the assistant district attorney read from a letter written by Gilberg’s family and friends.
“You wish you’d never done this. You wish you never went out there. You wish you never did this or that, but again as Cheryl's family reminds us, you were the only person that day that could control anything. Cheryl didn’t have any control that day,” said Judge John Markson before he announced his sentence.
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