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Cape doctor will face no charge

Says she shot her husband to death in self-defense

Gryboski will not face charges in her husband's death. Gryboski will not face charges in her husband's death. (Paul Blackmore/Cape Cod Times via AP-file)

A Cape Cod doctor who said she shot and killed her husband in self-defense after years of abuse will not have to face charges, prosecutors said yesterday.

A grand jury yesterday declined to indict Ann Gryboski, 51, for murder in the shooting death of her husband, Patrick Lancaster, 50, on Easter Sunday in their Barnstable home.

Witnesses told the grand jury that Lancaster had physically and psychologically abused Gryboski for more than 20 years, said Michael O'Keefe, the district attorney for the Cape and Islands.

O'Keefe said in a telephone interview that he was not surprised by the grand jury's decision, which came after testimony from 27 witnesses.

"I think the issue is one of self-defense," he said. "The grand jury had an opportunity to assess [the witnesses'] credibility and their demeanor, and to question them. They then applied the law of self-defense as it applied to this matter, and they then rendered a decision that was entirely consistent with the evidence that they heard."

The grand jury's decision was a victory for victims of domestic abuse, said Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., a Boston-based advocacy group for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. "I am ecstatic that the grand jury brought back the decision they did."

"When victims of domestic violence are put in the position of having to use violence to defend themselves and others, it's a sign that we as a society have failed them. This decision at least restores a bit of justice," Lauby said.

Lancaster's abuse of Gryboski began early in their marriage, when Lancaster told Gryboski that he would hurt her, their children, and any police who responded if she called for help after he abused her. She occasionally told co-workers that her black eyes and other facial injuries were the result of playing basketball with her sons, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors gave the following account of the events that led to Lancaster's death:

On April 7, the night before Easter Sunday, Lancaster and Gryboski drove to their home with their 2-year-old grandson after leaving a family dinner with their 25-year-old son, Christopher, and his fiancée.

Lancaster, angry that Gryboski had not left the restaurant quickly enough, punched his wife in the face while she was driving. She put her hand up to protect herself, but he ordered her to lower it and then punched her several more times.

The couple's son and his fiancée came to the home the next morning to pick up the baby, but when Gryboski gave an unsatisfactory explanation for her facial injuries, Lancaster threw a tape measure at her.

The son confronted Lancaster, but Lancaster backed him into the kitchen, saying he would slit his throat.

When Gryboski took her gun from her purse, Lancaster approached her and said, "You're so dead; you don't know what you started." Lancaster continued to approach Gryboski after she shot him once, so she shot him twice more in the torso, prosecutors said in their account.