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PORT CLINTON -- Without shedding a tear, William "B.J." Liske yesterday told a courtroom filled with those who knew and loved his father, stepmother, and stepbrother that he could not explain why he brutally murdered them last October.
"I loved my dad very much, and it makes me feel sick every time I think about what I did," Liske, 25, said. "I can't really explain why this all had to happen, but I think most of all it had to do with my mental illness."
Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters, who last month accepted guilty pleas from Liske for three counts of aggravated murder, sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the deaths of William E. Liske, Jr., 53; Susan Liske, 46, and her son, Derek Griffin, 23.
"The court is not in a position to make this whole. It is not in a position to bring back loved ones. The court can only hope to do justice," Judge Winters said before imposing the sentence.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to recommend that Liske spend the rest of his life in prison. In exchange for guilty pleas to three of the six counts of aggravated murder he had faced, the court dismissed specifications that could have resulted in sentencing Liske to death.
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Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan said afterward more than enough physical evidence existed to convict Liske and justify imposition of the death penalty, but he suspects that because of Liske's young age and relatively long history of mental illness, his case would have been tied up in appeals for years to come.
"It seemed to me to be the best resolution of the case," Mr. Mulligan said. "I think justice was done."
Defense attorney Adrian Cimerman said Liske was declared legally sane but clearly was mentally ill. He said it's unknown whether Liske was taking the medication that was prescribed for his schizoaffective disorder on the night of the murders, although he had been drinking alcohol.
"Clearly, he should not have been provided alcohol," Mr. Cimerman said. "That's something that was a constant problem in his life -- the mixture of alcohol and his mental illness."
Prosecutors said Liske bludgeoned his stepbrother to death with a claw hammer before going to his father's first-floor bedroom, where he shot Mr. Liske five times in the head and shot his stepmother three times in the head.
Physical evidence also indicated Ms. Liske was sexually assaulted by her stepson just before or after her death, Mr. Mulligan said.
The violence occurred late Oct. 30 or early Oct. 31 at the family's home on State Rt. 2 just east of the Lucas-Ottawa County line.
In a statement read in court by victim's advocate Carolyn Renwand, Susan Liske's sister, Laurie Morse, said her family just wanted to know why.
"I will never get the events of that day out of my head," she said. "Our family has suffered an indescribable loss. B.J. tore our hearts out and destroyed our family's happiness as we knew it."
"We feel such crippling grief," she said. "We will never hear Susan's laughter or see Derek's smile again or feel a bear hug from Bill."
The family's murders were discovered Oct. 31 by Ms. Liske's 16-year-old son, Devon Griffin, who had spent the night at his father's house, gone to church, then returned to his mother and stepfather's home.
After finding his mother's body, Devon called his Aunt Laurie, who then called 911.
Liske was arrested later that afternoon at the family's cottage in Carroll County, Ohio.
Lisa Curll, sister of William Liske, Jr., told the court that her family's lives had been changed forever.
"We just don't understand how something like this could happen. You see stuff like this on TV and think it will never happen to your family. You love someone so much and then they take something away from you -- my only brother, my sister-in-law, Derek," a tearful Ms. Curll said, turning to her nephew. "I just don't know how you could do it when he loved you so much."
Judge Winters interrupted Ms. Curll at that point to say she should address her comments to the court, not to the defendant.
Liske, for his part, read a statement he had prepared, at times losing his place and repeating his words. He apologized to those he had hurt, made references to Satan "working for the destruction of our souls," and said he prays daily for everyone involved.
"There won't be a day that goes by that I won't feel horrible for what I've done. ... It's all my fault and I don't blame anyone but myself," Liske said. "I never intended for this to happen. It wasn't because of Sue or Derek or even my father. I believe it was an internal struggle with my mental illness."
Mr. Mulligan said afterward that he was impressed that Liske "took as much responsibility as he did."
"I think that meant a lot to the family," he said. "I'm sure it didn't answer their questions about why because how can there ever be a logical answer as to why this happened? But I think it went a long way to give them something of an explanation."
Asked afterward if she was satisfied with the outcome of the case, Ms. Curll said simply, "I'm just glad it's over."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.