Some cried and another broke out into applause as Steven Leonhart was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for murdering a Washington County man, with no possibility of parole for 52 years.
There was not an empty seat in the courtroom when Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Susan Boyer handed down the sentence, which ensures the 36-year-old Whipple man will not be eligible for parole until after his 88th birthday.
"The harm caused here was so great that no prison sanction could adequately serve as punishment," said Boyer.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Steven Leonhart, left, sobbed uncontrollably as he made a statement before his Thursday sentencing on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.
Leonhart was charged with the Jan. 12 murder of 35-year-old Willard D. "Willy" Baker, of 245 Caywood Road, Marietta. Leonhart told detectives he went to Baker's house that day with the intention of killing his ex-girlfriend, Holly Fickiesen, 40, of Marietta, and then turning the gun on himself, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
Baker, who was dating Fickiesen, returned home as Leonhart was assaulting her and was shot and killed. When Fickiesen fled to a neighboring home, Leonhart followed and a struggle for the shotgun ensued between Leonhart and Baker's neighbor, Mike Lisk. Lisk's hip was broken as a result of the confrontation.
On Aug. 23, Leonhart pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony county of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony count of aggravated burglary and a second-degree charge of felonious assault.
Jan. 12, 2012: Steven Leonhart is arrested for shooting and killing Willard D. "Willy" Baker at Baker's 245 Caywood Road residence. Leonhart was also charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Holly Fickiesen, as well as Baker's next-door neighbor, Mike Lisk.
Jan. 27: Leonhart is indicted by a Washington County grand jury on charges of aggravated murder, first-degree felony attempted murder, first-degree felony kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary and second-degree felonious assault.
April 2: Leonhart, who had at first pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, is found competent to stand trial.
Aug. 23: The Washington County Prosecutor's Office drops charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary against Leonhart.
Aug. 23: Leonhart enters pleas of guilty to charges of first-degree aggravated murder, one first-degree felony count of aggravated burglary and one second-degree count of felonious assault.
Thursday: Leonhart is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 52 years.
The aggravated murder charge was enough to force a life sentence, with the only question being that of parole eligibility, said Rings.
Leonhart's attorney, Rolf Baumgartel, said Leonhart bore no ill feelings toward Baker and had even ended up shaking hands with him after a previous confrontation.
"I can tell you all, this was never a jealousy thing. This wasn't if I can't have her no one can. This was a case about me being very depressed about certain situations," said Leonhart, choking on heavy sobs throughout the statement.
Leonhart's psychological analysis showed that he was not legally insane but certainly showed Leonhart to suffer from serious mental illness, added Baumgartel.
Rings read a prepared statement from Lisk, who asked that Leonhart be shown no mercy and detailed how the assault has handicapped him and has put his family in a constant state of fear.
"My wife still has nightmares," Lisk wrote.
Baker's younger sister, Christy Drake, boiled over with anger and tears as she addressed Leonhart and the court.
"I wish you would have pulled the trigger on her and then on yourself," she said.
Drake also brought a photograph of Baker's son, Hunter, and demanded that Leonhart look at the son he had left fatherless. Leonhart did not turn around to view the photo, but wept silently through her statement.
She also asked for the maximum penalty, which Boyer ended up imposing.
Boyer sentenced Leonhart to life with parole eligibility after 30 full years for the murder charge. She added three years for a gun speculation, 11 years for the aggravated burglary and eight years for the felonious assault.
The family declined to comment after the sentencing, but Rings said he thought the family was satisfied with the outcome.
"Obviously it was a good sentence," said Rings, who noted that Leonhart will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.