Both the victim of a July 2011 stabbing in Belpre and the presiding judge showed emotion Friday as the sentencing for the crime was pronounced.
The perpetrator, 16-year-old John Paul Lee, did not.
Lee sat impassively in Washington County Common Pleas Court as Assistant Prosecutor Ray Dugger recommended a 12-year sentence, defense attorney Rolf Baumgartel asked for less and Judge Susan Boyer sentenced the teen to a total of 17 years in prison on charges of aggravated burglary and felonious assault. He will receive credit for 370 days already served in jail and will not be eligible for parole.
Sixteen-year-old Belpre resident John Paul Lee sits alone in Washington County Common Pleas Court Friday after being sentenced to 17 years in prison for stabbing his neighbor multiple times in July 2011.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Boyer's voice cracked as she described why, according to the victim impact statement submitted to the court, the 22-year-old victim was where she was when Lee stabbed her multiple times - in the hallway in front of her 3-year-old son's room.
"While she was on the phone with the police, she stood in that doorway to protect him," the judge said.
The child was not injured in the July 9, 2011, incident.
Aggravated burglary (first-degree felony) - 10 years.
Felonious assault (second-degree felony) - Seven years.
Received credit for 370 days already served.
Not eligible for parole.
Sentences will be served consecutively.
Source: Washington County Common Pleas Court and prosecutor's office.
On that night, prosecutors say Lee, who was 15 at the time and told police he'd had dreams about killing his neighbor, entered her home on Westview Drive in Belpre. The woman previously testified that the boy came out of a hall bathroom and attacked her after she had called 911. She suffered cuts and stab wounds to her face, arm and back.
None of the wounds were critical, but the woman said she had no doubt what would have happened had she not fought him off with a can of pepper spray. The victim asked to not be identified. Prosecutors said the motivation for the attack may have been sexual in nature, although a sex crime ultimately was not committed.
"If I hadn't had pepper spray, I wouldn't be alive today," she said at Friday's sentencing hearing.
The woman asked Boyer to impose the longest sentence possible, saying she did not believe he could be rehabilitated but that imprisoning him would protect her, her family and the community.
"I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life," she said tearfully. "He should have to deal with this for as long as the state will allow."
The maximum sentence Lee could have received was 19 years. Dugger said he felt the victim's speaking in court helped convince Boyer to give him a sentence close to that.
"It shows you how important it is for the victim to appear and make their thoughts known to the court," he said.
Dugger originally recommended seven years on the aggravated burglary charge and five for the felonious assault, to be served back-to-back rather than concurrently.
Lee's attorney, Rolf Baumgartel, argued that while the crime committed was a serious one, "it doesn't change the fact that John Paul was 15 years old at the time." That doesn't negate what he did, the attorney said, but it should be a mitigating factor.
In arguing against maximum, consecutive sentences, Baumgartel said Lee has been in counseling since the age of 8, suffers from severe mental illness and has minimal family support.
"Since he's been in jail, his adoptive father has not visited him one time," he said.
After the hearing, Baumgartel said he was disappointed with the outcome.
"The law hasn't caught up with science. The fact is a child's brain isn't fully developed until age 22," he said.
"It doesn't make sense to me that the actions of a child are then used to make him into an adult," Baumgartel said.
Asked by Boyer if he had anything to say, Lee replied simply, "No ma'am."
Boyer cited the boy's previous criminal record, including being found delinquent on a charge of gross sexual imposition when he was 11, as well as a history of drug abuse and alcohol experimentation, while considering factors making him likely to commit crimes again.
"There is nothing here that would make him less likely to recidivate," she said.
In addition to the 17-year sentence, Boyer ordered the boy to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $8,122.22, primarily for medical expenses.
Lee was originally charged as a juvenile, but Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Williams ruled in November he could be tried as an adult.
Conor Morris contributed.