Published Wednesday, April 12, 2000
Fuller gets life in prison
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Convictedkiller spared death penalty
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JURY DEADLOCKED 11-1 OVER PENALTY FOR BOY’S MURDER
By Hal Johnson
Annette Farrand said she was satisfied with a sentence of life without parole for the convicted killer of her son, but she would have preferred to see Ronald L. Fuller get the death penalty.
A deadlocked jury Tuesday forced Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael J. Wherry to sentence Fuller, 25, to life imprisonment without parole for killing 13-year-old Jeremy Farrand on May 29 in the boy’s Sharon home.
After six hours of deliberation, the same jury that convicted Fuller of first-degree murder was split 11-1 on the sentence, according to the jury foreman. He did not say which way. Prosecutors said they believe 11 favored the death penalty with a single juror for life.
While that ended the Farrell man’s month-long trial, it left Jeremy’s mother with one question unanswered. “How can someone come into someone’s house and take a life?” asked Mrs. Farrand.
Fuller was convicted of breaking into Jeremy’s 575 Prindle St. home shortly before 1 a.m. May 29 and shooting the boy with a sawed-off shotgun. Prosecutors said Fuller’s intended victim was Lindsey Lowe, who frequented the house, and the likely motive was revenge or intimidation. Witnesses said Fuller was upset that Lowe was implicating Fuller’s friend in an unrelated Feb. 25, 1999, robbery of a Sharon house.
“Because the defendant wanted to send a message to a Commonwealth witness — to the criminal justice system, the jury sent a message to the defendant,” Assistant District Attorney David Ritsvey said.
“He got less than what he deserved, but he will get the rest of his life to think about its meaning and its consequences,” Ritsvey said.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Bonner, who led the prosecution team, said life or death “was a very tough decision for a group of people to make.”
Wherry told the jurors he could understand their plight. The last execution in Mercer County was in 1932 and the last death penalty case to go before a jury was in 1989, he said.
Fuller, who still maintains his innocence, showed little emotion as sentence was handed down.
Jeremy Farrand’s friends said Fuller took away their lives, along with Jeremy’s.
“He was a great young man as well. He was also my hero. I believe he saved my daughter’s life,” said Catherine Fansler, who with her daughter Crystal Fansler shared the Prindle Street house with the Farrands.
Four children were watching movies the night Fuller walked into the house, witnesses said. As Crystal said someone should see who was at the door, Jeremy muttered “Grand Central Station” and went into the kitchen, where he was killed, the witnesses said.
Neither Mrs. Farrand nor Crystal have been the same since the murder, Mrs. Fansler said. “Crystal does not go to sleep alone anymore ... I wonder if my daughter will ever find it safe enough to go outside at night or to a school function,” Mrs. Fansler said.
“I don’t feel like living, but I do just because Jeremy would want me to,” Crystal said. “Jeremy was like my little brother. I miss hearing him rant and rave. Fuller took my life along with Jeremy’s.”
“I lost the best friend I had,” said Stephen Sterthal, who was in the house that night.
Crystal’s friend Karen Gierchak was also there. She said her memory of the murder was like “a constant movie that I see all day and all night.”
“Whatever the sentence, Jeremy will not return. The only justice would be to go back to that night and lock the door,” she said.
Fuller was also sentenced to 10 to 20 years for burglary, 2½ to 5 years for possessing prohibited offensive weapons, and 2 1/2 to 5 years for possessing instruments of crime. They will be served concurrently with the life sentence. Fuller also was ordered to pay $2,729 restitution for funeral and other expenses.
Fuller’s court-appointed defense attorney Wayne Hundertmark would not comment.
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