On the morning of August 24, 2000, horrified neighbors of Canadian-born Claude Bornais, 65, and his 51-year-old Dominican wife, Carmen, witnessed the knife-wielding woman chase the big bandleader-jazz musician of of their home, and down the street of a gated community in Boca Raton, Florida. When Claude Bornais finally crumpled to the pavement he had been gravely wounded from at least 20 slash marks and stab wounds ranging from the top of his head downwards. The tip of the knife blade broke off in his body. Bornais died the following day and Carmen was charged with second-degree murder. She told police her husband of eight month had been abusive, and that she had merely acted in self-defense after Bornais had attempted to stab her. A sheriff's report, however, indicated the wounds on her left arm looked to be self-inflicted. Although the marriage appeared outwardly tranquil according to the bandleader's professional associates, a note found in Bornais' car after his death listed 21 domestic problems with his wife. Bornais wrote, "(she) Cannot fill out job application," "(her) closets and drawers (are in) total disarray," and complained that she spoke little English, and was unable to read street signs or music. The laundry list of complaints closed with the cryptic entry, "Don't let others destroy me!"
Attorneys for Carmen, a hairstylist in Boca Raton, mounted a "battered spouse defense" arguing
Carmen Bornais (Florida Dept. of Corrections)
Bornais was such a controlling tyrant that he forced his wife to give him all her money while physically punishing her for offenses as minor as bringing him the wrong brand of beer. Insanely jealous by Carmen's account, the bandleader barred her from taking English lessons because he feared she might meet Latin men. Often, she claimed, Bornais dragged her by the hair, slapped her, and afterwards begged her not to leave him. The prosecution countered this image of the battered spouse justifiably driven to protect herself from an abusive husband, by casting Carmen as a "weeping-but-wily" woman attempting to manipulate events to stay out of the penitentiary. On February 13, 2002, a jury rejected Carmen's battered spouse claim and found her guilty of second-degree murder. After hearing the verdict, she fell to her knees and prayed. In June 2002, Carmen Bornais was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 20 1/2 years and, following her release, ordered placed on probation for another 20 years. As of January 2014, she was listed by the Florida Department of Corrections as serving her sentence in minimum security at the Hernando Correctional Institution in Brooksville with a projected release date of January 22, 2018.