The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Judge: case one of the most difficult|
Angela Robin Nolen
Monday, September 23, 2013
By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer
The former kindergarten teacher who hired a hit man to kill her ex-husband in February will serve eight years of a 25-year sentence.
Angela Robin Nolen, 47, of Moneta pleaded guilty in June to one count of solicitation to commit murder for meeting with an undercover state police agent and paying him $4,000 to kill her ex-husband, Paul "Jay" Strickler.
"Eight years may seem like a long time to you, but you have got to consider what you did," Judge W.N. Alexander II told Nolen Friday morning.
Alexander said this case is one of the most difficult cases he has had to judge "and I have been a judge for a long time."
Nolen was also sentenced to four years probation with the special condition that she complete 2,000 hours of community service, which will involve teaching individuals who are on probation or in jail.
The 2,000 hours of community service must be completed in three years, the judge said.
During Nolen's sentencing hearing Friday, Dr. Jeffrey Frazier, a clinical psychologist from Charlottesville, testified that Nolen was physically and mentally abused by her ex-husband. The abuse went on for some time, he added.
"She suffered from post traumatic stress" said Frazier. "She felt powerless. People don't think straight in that situation."
Frazier said Nolen was an accommodating person and that she accepts responsibility for what she has done. There is no indication from psychological testing that she would commit another crime, he added.
Nolen testified that the past abuse from her husband resulted in her living in fear.
"But I was under stress," she said. "I know that's no excuse and it was wrong."
During Friday's hearing, teachers, friends and neighbors of Nolen testified, saying that she was a loving mother, a good teacher and a good person.
In closing statements, Nolen's attorney David Furrow said a time line leading up to Nolen hiring a hit man, who was actually an undercover state trooper, showed a consistent pattern of abuse or allegations of abuse.
"She's accepted responsibility and has done everything she's been told to do," Furrow said. "Her life history has been one of giving."
Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Allen said it's been hard for him to figure out why Nolen hired a hitman to kill her ex-husband, particularly after Strickler had moved away. Nolen's plan to have Strickler killed stretched out for more than a week, he added.
"She didn't seem to be in fear," Allen said. "She even went to work out after she paid the hit man."
Allen said the plan by Nolen was spoiled when a co-worker at Sontag Elementary School was provided with information by the school nurse on Feb. 11 that Nolen was searching for someone to kill her ex-husband.
Nolen was a kindergarten teacher at the school before her arrest.
The school nurse, Cathy Warren Bennett, 37, of Rocky Mount pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to solicit murder. She will be sentenced on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. in circuit court.
The coworker contacted the police and was provided with a telephone number to give to Nolen, Allen said. Nolen was told to ask for "Greg."
On Feb. 18, Sgt. J.G. Blankenship with the Virginia State Police received a call from Nolen at 4:20 p.m., Allen said. They agreed to meet at 4 p.m. the next day in Lowe's parking lot in Rocky Mount.
Surveillance had been set up in the undercover agent's car and in the parking lot to record the meeting, Allen said. When Nolen arrived, she got into the front seat of Blankenship's car and said she wanted Strickler "eliminated from this earth" several times.
The two negotiated a price of $8,000 for the hit, Allen said, and Nolen went to her bank to withdraw $4,000. She returned to the parking lot at 4:38 p.m. and gave the cash to Blankenship.
The next morning, state police agents questioned Nolen, and, at first, she denied any involvement in the murder-for-hire plot, Allen said. However, she eventually confessed and demonstrated remorse, he added.
Court records show that Nolen was granted a protective order for family abuse on behalf of herself and the couple's adopted 7-year-old daughter against Strickler shortly before the couple divorced in December 2012.
The protective order, issued by Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in October 2012, prohibited Strickler from having any contact with Nolen and limited his contact with their daughter to three 5-minute phone calls per week, according to the document.
A judge granted the protective order after Nolen had "proven the allegation of family abuse by a preponderance of evidence," the order states.
The protective order remains in effect until October 2014.
Nolen has sole custody of their daughter, who is currently living with Nolen's mother in Rocky Mount.