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SALT LAKE CITY — Cynthia Vincent sobbed as 3rd District Judge Paul Parker sentenced her to a term of one to 15 years in prison for the death of her husband, 57-year-old Michael Vincent.
"All I can say is I'm sorry," the 42-year-old told the judge through tears minutes earlier. "I didn't want any of this. ... I was just scared."
Parker's decision came at the end of an emotionally charged sentencing Monday that included widely differing accounts of who Michael Vincent was and his actions leading up to the moment that Cynthia Vincent shot him on July 6, 2021.
Defense attorney David Clark characterized him as an abusive "wife-beater" who had been investigated for a homicide.. But Michael Vincent's family members testified that he was a loving father and grandfather, an active community member who taught self-defense classes to kids.
Cynthia Vincent was arrested and charged with murder six months after Michael Vincent's death.
On July 6, Unified police were called to Vincent's House of Goju, 9145 W. Main in Magna, after Cynthia Vincent called 911 to report that she had shot her husband.
Michael Vincent was found deceased just inside the entrance of the business, where the couple also lived.
When interviewed by police, Vincent "asserted that she and Michael had been fighting all weekend. Vincent stated that shortly before the shooting, Michael had assaulted and strangled her," according to charging documents.
Vincent told detectives that she had called a friend to pick her up and then told her husband that a friend was on the way. That's when she said Michael Vincent lunged at her and she fired a shot, according to the charges.
But prosecutors say when Cynthia Vincent apparently realized that where Michael Vincent's body was found didn't match up to where she said she shot him, she tried to explain again what had happened.
"Vincent tried to explain the events again but appeared to be guessing at where they were standing during the shooting. Vincent's recollection of the events was not supported by evidence. The evidence is consistent with Michael leaving through the front door of the business when he was shot in the side of the head," the charges state.
Investigators also learned that the call Vincent made to her friends to pick her up was made just one minute or less before she called 911.
Detectives reviewed security video from the house which showed Vincent and her husband "doing chores and interacting normally" the day before on July 5. Even as late as two hours before the shooting, Michael Vincent is seen on video kissing his wife, the charges say.
"Following this incident, she attempted to gain access to and close financial accounts that she previously shared with the victim. She was unable to do so as the victim removed (her) from the accounts prior to his death," the charges state.
Prosecutors later reduced the charge to manslaughter, a second-degree felony, under Utah's imperfect self-defense law, which Parker explained means it was reasonable for Vincent to believe she had to defend herself but she wasn't actually in any danger. Vincent pleaded guilty in October.
'I'm never going to understand'
Clark said Vincent is a domestic violence survivor who recognizes she shouldn't have shot her husband but who didn't feel safe.
Vincent "had to make an agonizing decision," Clark said, and was acting in good faith.
He stated multiple times that Michael Vincent was a "wife-beater" and a "girlfriend-beater," and said he was a fourth-degree black belt who had been drinking and smoking marijuana the night of his death. Clark also repeatedly emphasized that Vincent had been the subject of a homicide investigation.
Cynthia Vincent is not a danger to society, Clark said, and he's "certain" that the majority of citizens would agree that probation is the "fair thing to do."
But prosecutor W. Shane Cohen said all his team heard from Clark was, "We did a favor for society, so she should be let go."
Cohen said the gun was kept in the couple's bedroom, not near the door where Michael Vincent was shot. All Cynthia Vincent had to do was walk away, Cohen said, but she instead approached her husband from behind with a loaded weapon.
"She put herself in this situation," Cohen said. "She came out and she shot him at the door, within inches of him leaving."
During statements from family members, Rodney Wright said Michael Vincent, his cousin, was a father figure to him.
"The only justice I see is prison," he said. "I don't understand (why Cynthia Vincent shot him), and I'm never going to understand now."
William Vincent, Michael Vincent's son, said he "can't comprehend" how this happened. His father was loved by the community, he said, evidenced by the 100-plus people who attended a candlelight vigil held shortly after his death.
"I looked up to him," William Vincent said. "He was my protector."
William Vincent's wife, Lyndsey, said Michael Vincent will never get to see his two grandchildren grow up. Their family misses his laughter, his phone calls, his funny stories and his terrible singing and dancing, she said.
"You will never be forgiven," she told Cynthia Vincent. "You will always have blood on your hands."
Correction: A previous version of this story said William Vincent's wife's name is Lindy. Her name is Lyndsey.