A year ago, Roxane Johnson-Sterling could have been the poster child for women who stand by their men - no matter what.
At the time, her husband, Albert Jackson Sterling II, had just been sentenced to 30 years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill her and her unborn child. The Allen resident supported her husband, even after it was revealed that his affair with a younger woman may have been the motive for the crime.
The devoted wife even testified in her husband's defense during his trial in February 2008, telling Collin County jurors that she still loved him and considered him an honest and trustworthy man.
It's unclear, however, whether she still feels that way today. Roxane Johnson, as she is now known, recently ended her seven-year marriage to the man she steadfastly defended for so long.
Now a single mother raising her two young children, Johnson, 39, isn't giving any hint if her feelings for her ex-husband have changed in the year since he was convicted on two counts of solicitation to commit capital murder. She declined to be interviewed, and the uncontested divorce that was finalized Jan. 23 doesn't provide any insights.
But the divorce doesn't necessarily indicate that Johnson now feels any animosity for the father of her sons, ages 5 and 2, said Russell Wilson, Sterling's defense attorney. Wilson believes the divorce was a logical move for a couple separated by time, distance and iron bars.
"He has a long prison sentence that he's attempting to appeal, and together they decided not to be married," Wilson said. "I can't speak for Roxane, but - as a practicality - he's in jail and she's not."
Wilson, who remains in contact with Johnson, said she's trying to make the best of a bad situation.
"She's a lady of strong faith," he said. "She has very strong church support and a tremendous number of friends who have given her support."
Sterling, 40, is currently housed at the Collin County Jail and is scheduled to be transferred back to prison, although no date has been set, jail officials said. He was not present when the divorce was finalized and signed a waiver agreeing to the court's decisions, according to the court documents.
Johnson, who resumed using her maiden name as part of the divorce decree, has sole custody of the children and will not receive any child support.
All the couple's property and debts had already been divided, and Johnson is now living in a rented house in Allen, not far from the 3,800-square-foot home she and her ex-husband sold in 2007, public records show.
In 2006, the Sterlings appeared to be living a storybook life in their $400,000 Allen home. She worked in human resources and was expecting their second child. He was working in telecommunications and was a popular instructor at a Dallas fitness center. Friends described him as a devoted family man.
That image crumbled on the afternoon of Nov. 21, 2006, when Johnson - eight months pregnant at the time - walked into her bedroom and was confronted by Jeffrey Thompson. The ex-convict told her that he'd been hired by her husband to kill her but that he had decided not to harm her.
Thompson, who was never charged in the case, testified at the trial that Sterling offered to pay him $20,000 to kill his wife, cut up her body and dump it in South and East Dallas.
Thompson, a key prosecution witness, couldn't be reached for comment, but he is believed to still be in the Dallas area working as a cook.
Sterling's girlfriend, Natalia Sinatora, met him at the fitness center where she was a salsa dance instructor and he taught an early-morning boxing class. During the 1 years they dated, they talked of marriage and children, Sinatora testified at his trial.
She has said she didn't know he was married until she saw news reports of his arrest in the plot to kill his wife.
Sinatora, who lives in Dallas and still works at the fitness center where she met Sterling, would say only that she has put that chapter of her life in the past - and wants to keep it there. She declined to comment further.
For Plano resident Susan Dodia, who was forewoman of the Sterling jury, the dramatic murder-for-hire trial remains a vivid memory.
"I think one of the reasons this stayed with me so much is because this could have been any family in my neighborhood," Dodia said. "You think you know people, but you don't."
She said the testimony of the two women in Albert Sterling's life left a strong impression on her.
"I remember thinking that both women had been so ill-used," Dodia said. "We saw cards and letters that Al had sent to both of them. It was so sad."
Dodia said she has often wondered how the principals in the case are faring.
"My hope for everyone is that they've gone on to better things," she said. "And I hope Al Sterling is taking this opportunity to change his life."