FREMONT — For killing his wife with an overdose of the methadone prescribed to him for a back injury, Jason Risenburg was sentenced today to 11 years in prison.
Risenburg, 38, who pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to involuntary manslaughter, offered no explanation or apology when given the opportunity by Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge John Dewey. Friends and family members of Beth Spaulding Risenburg who attended the hearing in her memory had plenty to say.
“I want you to hear these words over and over until your meaningless life comes to an end,” the victim’s mother, Maureen Spaulding of Northwood, told Risenburg before the sentence was imposed. “You killed your wife and you are alone. You killed Beth and you are alone.”
Mrs. Spaulding and her son, Daryl Spaulding, 29, both addressed the court, speaking of the victim’s compassion and creative spirit, her love of singing and kindness to others.
“I will remember her impact on my life was as sharp and well-composed as one of her photographs, as unforgettable as her prose, and as pitch-perfect as her singing in its well-practiced oscillation,” her only brother said.
Mrs. Spaulding called Risenburg’s actions unthinkable.
“You took away our little girl, our best friend and yours,” she said. “You killed the one person that truly cared if you woke up tomorrow, the person that would have gone without anything, done anything to make you happy.”
Ms. Spaulding Risenburg, 31, died in her sleep at the couple’s Fremont apartment April 2, 2012. She’d had health problems, and her death was not considered suspicious until toxicology tests done by the Lucas County Coroner’s Office revealed high levels of methadone in her system.
Her family took their suspicions to Fremont police, and her husband of nearly 13 years was indicted for her murder in January, 2013.
Defense attorney Jon Ickes told the court Risenburg had no prior criminal history, but he said little else. A plea agreement reached just prior to Risenburg’s trial for murder and corrupting another with drugs called for an 11-year sentence.
Judge Dewey withheld any commentary in sentencing Risenburg other than to say the court was “satisfied that the appropriate sentence for this case will be the maximum sentence of 11 years.” He also ordered that Risenburg pay the Spauldings $7,000 toward funeral expenses for their daughter.
As he was led from the courtroom, Risenburg was asked why he did it. He replied simply, “I didn’t.”
Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt said afterward that Risenburg told Fremont Police Det. Jason Kiddey several versions of what happened during a lengthy interview later in 2012. Ms. Risenburg had run out of her own prescription medicine, he told police, and so he gave her some of his 5 mg. methadone pills so she would not suffer withdrawal, Mr. Stierwalt said.
“As the interview continued he [said he] might’ve started giving her his 10 mg pills -- not obviously with the purpose to kill her,” he said.
Mr. Stierwalt gave Detective Kiddey credit for investigating the Spauldings’ suspicions and getting the partial confession from Risenburg.
“He did an awesome job. I don’t think there’d have been a case except for his persistence in the interview,” Mr. Stierwalt said.