Two days shy of the five-year anniversary of Patrick Arnold’s death, his Newport Township neighbor was sentenced to three years in prison on charges related to his death.
Mark F. Stevens, 48, of 2385 Bells Run Road, made no comment and stared blankly forward as acting Judge Julie Selmon of Monroe County handed down his sentence Monday in Washington County Common Pleas Court on a first-degree misdemeanor count of negligent homicide and a third-degree felony count of tampering with evidence.
“Someone as a result of this incident died,” said Selmon before sentencing the maximum penalty on the third-degree felony.
A five-month sentence for the lesser negligent homicide charge was ordered to run concurrently with the three-year sentence for the felony tampering with evidence charge.
Relatives of Arnold who attended the sentencing said they didn’t feel satisfied with the outcome of the case.
“I just feel like justice has not been served,” said Arnold’s sister, Becky Klintworth, of Devola, after the hearing. “If he did do it, three and a half years is not enough. And if he didn’t do it, my brother’s case is closed. It’s very tough for us,” she said.
Stevens has been incarcerated since his Aug. 1, 2012 arrest for the shooting death of Arnold. He was initially charged with murder as a result of taped confession during a conversation with confidential informant James Corder.
However, defense attorneys for Stevens were in the process of trying to suppress those conversations when Stevens was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge in May.
During a series of July 2012 conversations with confidential informant James Corder, Stevens, a reported alcoholic, was gifted beer and promised involvement in a moneymaking scheme if he confessed to Arnold’s murder, argued defense attorney Ray Smith.
In making a plea for a lenient sentence, Smith reasserted that he believes his client is innocent.
“There is no visible evidence and his statement does not match what happened at the crime scene. There are still other suspects,” he said.
Smith asked that Stevens be sentenced to concurrent sentences of one year in prison on the tampering charge and five months on the homicide charge.
Stevens would receive credit for all time served. Under Smith’s recommendation, Stevens would then be able to served the remaining eight or nine days of his sentence in the Washington County Jail.
“He’s low IQ. He’s low functioning. He’s a follower and he just wants to please people. I’m worried about how well he’ll do in prison,” said Smith.
Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider recommended a three-year prison sentence for Stevens, but asked that he be granted judicial release so that he would still have a supervision requirement after his release from prison.
“The defendant needs to be on continued supervision and I doubt the state will put him on post-release control for an F3 tampering,” said Schneider.
Arnold’s sister, Nancy Lang, addressed the court Monday, also asking for the maximum sentence for Stevens.
“I know that maximum time doesn’t do justice to the violence of the crime,” she said, fighting back tears as she spoke. “Pat was a very active man in the prime of his life. He is so sadly missed.”
Lang also asked Stevens to explain to Arnold’s loved ones what transpired the day of his death.
“If there was a fight, what was it about? If it was an accident, why has it taken five years to get to this point?” asked Lang. “The only true closure will come when I understand what happened five years ago when Pat was shot.”
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the crime, has released few details about the crime.
The first account of events did not come forth until Stevens pleaded to the involuntary homicide charge in May.
During the change of plea hearing, Schneider said Stevens had been at Arnold’s house without permission the afternoon of the murder. When Arnold had confronted him with a gun, the two struggled and ultimately Arnold was shot in the chest.
Investigators have yet to find the murder weapon. Stevens’ apparent disposal of the weapon resulted in the tampering charge.
A man who did not elaborate on his relationship with Stevens spoke on his behalf during sentencing.
“Be lenient on Mark. Think about his mental state,” said Kevin Schneider, addressing the court.
Stevens suffers from schizophrenia and has spent time in mental institutions, said Smith.
Smith said he and Stevens had not discussed an appeal, but Smith does plan on applying for judicial release at the first available date-180 days after Stevens enters prison. He will be transfered to a state correctional facility within two weeks, said Smith.
Selmon said she would not address judicial release until it had been requested. In handing down the maximum sentence on the felony charge, she cited a variety of exacerbating factors. Among those were that Stevens has a history of random criminal convictions, a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse and has shown no remorse for the crime.
Klintworth, 48, said she is also concerned that there is evidence in the case, but it does not tie Stevens to the murder.
Smith alluded during sentencing to DNA evidence found under Arnold’s fingernails that did not match Stevens’ DNA.
“I last talked to (investigators) prior to pleading and they were still doing some investigating prior to his pleading,” said Smith.
Stevens’ family and friends declined to comment after the sentencing.
Smith said Stevens’ family was unhappy with the sentencing.
“The family knows it wasn’t Mark,” he said.