Pamela Ballin in a 2014 hearing.
Photo: Kent D. Johnson/AJC
Photo: Kent D. Johnson/AJC

DeKalb wife gets minimum sentence for murdering husband for insurance

After too many years of more stops than starts and never-mending wounds in his heart, George Ballin wanted the worst for his former sister-in-law Tuesday morning, the worst the judge could give.

Pamela Ballin was convicted of murder in the 2009 death of Derrick “Ricky” Ballin Sr. in DeKalb County. After 25 years of marriage, she wanted $1.2 million in life insurance, the jury found last month in a retrial after her first conviction

The maximum penalty Judge Gail Flake could’ve imposed in the sentencing hearing for the defendant — a 56-year-old diminutive woman with short, loose curls — was life without the possibility of parole.

But when prosecutor Yolanda Mack rose to announce her recommendation, she didn’t ask for the maximum. She wanted only life, which would’ve made Pamela Ballin eligible for parole in 30 years.

George Ballin sat in the courtroom gallery in downtown Decatur and showed no emotion as the judge spoke up incredulously.

“Based on the brutal evidence and the callous action,” the judge said, “I’m surprised the state’s not asking for life without the possibility of parole.”

The death, indeed, was brutal.

Pamela Ballin, who’d reportedly been cheating on her husband, bashed his head with a statue in their Lithonia home. It was about 18-inches-tall and depicted a man and a woman. 

The woman had her head on the man’s shoulder; the man held a spear. 

For George Ballin, one of the most insulting parts of the crime he’s heard detailed repeatedly in court was what happened after his brother hit the ground. The wife took the spear held by the man on the statue and stabbed her own man to see if he was still alive.

She tried to make it look like there’d been a home invasion and said intruders killed her husband.

The prosecutor told the judge she decided not to ask for the maximum sentence because of the age and background of the case.

Pamela Ballin was first convicted in 2014. But Judge Mark Anthony Scott released her from custody, saying he wasn’t sure she had a fair trial. It felt like a knife in George Ballin’s heart. 

A month later, the judge decided she had been treated fairly and ordered her arrested, later sentencing her to life. But the wife won a new trial.

The judge wasn’t deterred by the background. She said the calculated and cruel nature of the crime warranted life without parole. 

But she adhered to the prosecutor’s wishes and gave the defendant only life.

George Ballin, a tall Jamaican immigrant and businessman like his late brother, was expressionless as he walked out of the courtroom with family. He headed down the hall to a conference room.

But a few minutes later, he emerged, with a smile.

“In 30 years,” he said, “she’ll be 86.”

At that point, he figures she can’t hurt anyone, if she lives that long. 

George Ballin can live with that. 

He also isn’t phased by his ex-sister-in-law’s lawyer announcing that she intends to appeal because she still maintains that home invaders did the killing. As George Ballin put it, the prosecution could pick a jury from anywhere in the world and they’d find her guilty again, over and over again.

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In other news:

Channel 2's Chris Jose reports.

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