Maximum given: 7 years, 11 months

Updated: November 5, 2003, 5:22 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The widow of NFL running back Fred Lane was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison Wednesday for shooting her husband to death three years ago as he walked in the front door.

Deidra Lane, who pleaded guilty in August to voluntary manslaughter, cried as the judge read the sentence. Before her punishment was handed down, she addressed the family of her slain husband.

"I am sorry for the loss of Fred," she said. "I loved Fred dearly. He was a good man, but at times he scared me and I didn't know him then. I'm sorry for the pain I've caused."

Judge Timothy Patti gave her the maximum sentence of seven years and 11 months. He ruled the slaying was premeditated and deliberate, that Lane acted with malice, and that she shot her husband a second time after the first shot rendered him helpless. Those factors outweighed the alleged abuse, the judge said.

Fred Lane was a 24-year-old running back for the Carolina Panthers who had recently been traded to Indianapolis. He was found dead just inside the front door of his Charlotte home in 2000, his keys still in the lock.

"It was what we were hoping for," said the running back's father, Fred Lane Sr. "Their side should be happy. She missed the death penalty, she missed life in prison."

Deidra Lane's parents, Charles and Darlene Gary, declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

Deidra Lane, 28, also pleaded guilty last year to unrelated charges of conspiracy to commit bank larceny. She was sentenced to four months in jail, which she has served, and fined $41,200.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press