A Van Buren County man who shot his estranged wife’s lover has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted earlier this year on charges of second-degree murder.
The convicted killer, Bobby L. Looper, 55, was sentenced to 20 years following a sentencing hearing Monday before Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley at Van Buren County Courthouse in Spencer. The term was mid-range for the crime, which carries 15 to 25 years in prison.
Looper was convicted in February following a jury trial for the murder of his cousin, Michael L. Hensley, 42, who was gunned down in Looper’s home in the Mooneyham community on the night of Dec. 3, 2009.
Prosecutors told jurors the shooting likely came due to issues Looper had concerning his estranged wife, Gail Hixson, 49. Hensley, who was also estranged from his own wife at the time, had reportedly been meeting Hixson in secret leading up to the night of the killing.
Hixson told jurors during her testimony at trial she feared what Looper, who normally had numerous loaded guns around his house, would do if he discovered the affair. She said she last heard from Hensley when he texted her to tell her he was with Looper.
Hensley was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest, lying in a hall inside Looper’s home. Looper, who had marks on his face and body suggesting a fight occurred, was arrested at the scene when lawmen arrived to investigate what was first suggested to be a break-in. However, investigators quickly disputed the break-in suggestion, noting there were no signs of forced entry and Hensley’s jacket was found lying on the couch inside the home. His truck was found parked directly behind Looper’s in the driveway.
Prosecutors produced scientific evidence where the victim’s blood was found on Looper’s clothes and also showed one of Looper’s guns was used in the shooting.
Challenging the defense suggestion the killing was in self-defense given Looper’s apparent injuries, medical experts testified the shot which killed Hensley was fired from about a foot away, close enough there were muzzle burns on the victim’s skin.
Looper is expected to file a motion for a new trial, challenging both his conviction and sentence. He will be sent to the state penitentiary to begin serving the remainder of his term once room is available. He has been held at Van Buren County Jail leading up to his trial and sentencing.