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Monica Delk

A Hamilton County judge Friday sentenced a 37-year-old woman who fatally stabbed her boyfriend to 10 years of probation.

Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman denied Monica Delk's request for diversion, which would have withheld the sentence and potentially scrubbed it from her criminal record.

Delk, who already has served 18 months in the Silverdale detention facility, will receive psychiatric services and return to her friends and job at Bojangles in Rockwood, Tenn., Steelman said. If she encounters problems with her probation, then she could serve the remainder of her three-year sentence.

"It's what we expected," said her attorney, John McDougal, who added that mental health services will provide Delk the support network necessary to rebuild her life.

Police say Delk stabbed Charles Brown IV, her 27-year-old boyfriend, on Jan. 5, 2014, during a heated argument in her apartment at the College Hill Courts development. She cleaned the mess, put a blanket over Brown's body and alerted the police eight hours after he died on the floor.

After pleading guilty in October 2015 to voluntary manslaughter, Delk returned to court this week for a two-day sentencing hearing. Her case took on a new dimension when she testified Thursday that Brown had beaten her up, exhibited controlling behavior, refused to let her leave the apartment and threatened her children on the day of the stabbing.

Steelman said he believed Delk was telling the truth. Still, he wrestled over the issue of diversion Friday and weighed the consequences of erasing from the public record such a difficult, emotional crime.

Ultimately, he sided with the prosecution.

"Other individuals who encounter her in life should be aware that she's capable, that she's had the experience of doing this," Steelman said. "I don't think it's in the best interest of society for that to be expunged."

"My biggest point, which I think the judge agreed with, was that she not get diversion," prosecutor David Schmidt said. Schmidt spent both days of the sentencing hearing pointing out inconsistencies in Delk's story.

If she was scared for her life, why didn't she call police? Or a neighbor? Or just leave? If Brown took her phone, as she claimed, why didn't Delk ask a schoolmate or a friend to use theirs? Schmidt asked.

Dr. Robert W. Brown Jr., a psychologist who examined Delk in fall 2014, said she suffered from brain deficits because of complications with yellow jaundice during a premature birth. Delk didn't intend to stay frozen in a bad environment, didn't try to hide anything from police, he said.

Delk's behavior stems from a lack of brain tissue that prevents her from making reasoned decisions, Brown said. That, and a complicated family history.

As a child, Delk suffered from at least one major head injury that went untreated. As a teenager, she was sexually harassed and fondled by a number of her mother's boyfriends. One time, in self defense, Delk stabbed one of them in the hand with a metal comb, Brown said.

Schmidt jumped on this information, suggesting that if Delk was capable of this behavior two decades ago, and capable of it in 2014, why wouldn't she be capable of it in future difficult situations?

Steelman asked Brown if past behaviors indicate future behavior.

"Correct," Brown replied. "There is a risk there. There's deficits that present a risk."

Steelman said he had some concerns about Delk's organizational skills and her ability to be a reliable historian. But based on the studies, the psychologist's testimony, and her 18 months in Silverdale spent trying to better herself, "I do think this was something that she would have avoided if she had the ability," he concluded.

Before delivering his full sentence, Steelman also waxed poetic on the struggles of a one-sided case in which a dead man cannot testify.

"I say this in a way to try to help, but Brown was not here," Steelman said. "He hasn't had his chance to tell his say. Whether he sold marijuana or not, whether he was abusive or not, he was a human being with a right to breath."

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@times freepress.com or 423-757-6347 with story ideas or tips. Follow @zackpeterson918.

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