NEWPORT – Christine Billis, 45, left the Orleans County Courthouse in tears after hearing her fate Friday afternoon. In a plea agreement, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen sentenced Billis to 7-15 years with credit for time served.
Last July, nearly three years after her husband Charles Billis died in a car crash, she pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter.
During the investigation, Billis told investigators that Charles Billis was abusive to her.
VanBenthuysen said, “It would appear that there are some ambiguities in this case that could render trying the case very much a gamble for all sides. This is a tragedy for all concerned, particularly for the relatives and friends of Charles Billis. Nothing the court can do, unfortunately, will bring him back today.”
The court can send a message to others who want to change a bad situation in one of the most horrible ways, the judge said. He said Billis may feel some ambiguity about the situation, but it’s not an unreasonable response, because it’s providing for a maximum sentence.
On July 22, 2009, with the intent of killing herself and her husband, Christine Billis crashed their car into a tree on Route 5A in West Charleston. Bills, who was wearing her seatbelt sustained minor injuries. Charles Billis, who was not wearing a seat belt, died.
At first, it appeared Billis crashed into the tree because of a medical condition.
Billis might of gotten away with it if she hadn't told an online friend about what she did. The friend, identified in court records as a concerned individual (CI), told Detective Sgt. Darren Annis of the Vermont State Police that Billis admitted she purposely crashed the car into the tree. The CI provided a digital recording between himself and Billis where she talked about her actions and years of abuse from her husband. During the conversation, CI asked Billis if she was sure she shouldn’t confess, to which Bills expressed a concern about going to prison.
During a recorded conversation, CI told Billis she was the only person he knew who had killed someone, to which Billis answered, “Yeah, it wasn’t easy.” Billis said she was protecting herself and her children. Billis also told the CI that she had expected to die in the crash.
On April 25, 2011, Billis told Trooper Annis that she had ovarian cancer and had had a hysterectomy in June 2009. She said a lot was going on that year and she had extreme emotional and mental issues. Billis told Annis that Charles was abusive to her and at once point she left him, but she returned because he promised to change.
On the day of the crash, Billis wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home but she had to take Charles, who was legally blind, to an appointment in Newport. Billis said Charles didn’t look or feel well, but still wanted to make his appointment. After the appointment, Billis drove toward the couple’s home, but never made it.
In a separate conversation, Billis told Annis that Charles was abusive to her and the children. She said a few times that she and Charles were mutually abusive to each other, but there were no serious injuries.
Billis said Charles was controlling and would not allow her to have friends or talk to her oldest daughter or parents on the telephone. Billis told Annis that she saw the tree and knew it wouldn’t move when she hit it. At the time, she thought the tree coming at her was the “most beautiful thing” she saw in her life. Billis said she started to cry when she realize she didn’t die in the crash. Billis said she didn’t preplan the crash.