PORT CLINTON -- A Bowling Green man was sentenced Wednesday to 16 years in prison for beating a Cleveland-area man to death last summer at Put-in-Bay.
Zachary Brody, 27, pleaded guilty in March in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of tampering with evidence in the death of Phillip Masterson, 25, of Westlake, Ohio. His body was found Sept. 6. in a wooded area of South Bass Island in Lake Erie. An autopsy showed he died of blunt force trauma and strangulation.
Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters imposed the maximum sentence on Brody -- 10 years for involuntary manslaughter and three years for each count of tampering, all to be served consecutively.
The judge called the beating that ended Mr. Masterson's life the worst he had seen inflicted without a weapon in his 37 years in the criminal justice system.
"I think most disturbing is that after the beating you checked on Phil Masterson repeatedly and left him to die," the judge said. "Each time you chose to disregard the value of a human life. … This was not one instance of bad judgment, not an instance of bad judgment made in the heat of a rage, but a series of judgments made over an extended period of time which by my view speaks less to your judgment and more to your character and disregard for human life."
By all accounts, the victim and the defendant had never met before.
Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan said Mr. Masterson had been drinking heavily that night and wandered up to a cabin where Brody was staying, hoping to continue partying.
One of Brody's friends went to get him and asked if he could get rid of a guy hanging around outside. Brody, who is trained in martial arts, "did what he trained himself to do. He got out and got into a fight," Mr. Mulligan said.
After the beating, Brody got rid of the victim's wallet and dragged his body into the woods. He didn't call for help even though Mr. Masterson apparently was still alive after the beating.
For his part, Brody apologized to the court and to Mr. Masterson's family. He said that if he'd had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Masterson under different circumstances, they might have become friends.
"Unfortunately, we met under the worst possible circumstances," Brody said. "It was in these circumstances that I allowed fear and adrenaline to cloud my judgment."
He told Mr. Masterson's family that he knows they will never forgive him.
"For what it is worth, I am truly and terribly sorry for their loss," Brody said. "Please believe I had no ill will or malice toward him. It was a horrible situation. I stand before you here today to take full responsibility for my actions as well as my inaction. I repeatedly failed to do the right thing and it cost Phil Masterson his life. No matter what Phil may have done, the truth is if he had encountered a better man that night, he would still be with us today."
-- Jennifer Feehan