Anthony Bertolina blamed his heroin addiction for causing him to brutally murder his mother, but a Lucas County judge reminded him Monday it was his mother who had tried so hard to help him overcome that addiction.
Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks sentenced Bertolina, 34, to life in prison with parole eligibility after 30 years for the aggravated murder of Mary Jo Bertolina, 56, whom he stabbed to death Dec. 9 in the South Toledo home she had opened to her troubled son.
“She allowed you to come back into the house, and I’m sure she prayed nightly for your sobriety and a clear sense of the responsibilities you had as a citizen,” Judge Franks said. “When she let you back in to her home, what did you do to repay her? … You weighed your options and in your hedonistic, selfish way, the option was to kill her, to take her life so you could continue on with yours.”
Bertolina, a former paralegal, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder May 23, admitting he retrieved a knife from an upstairs bedroom and stabbed his mother in the back of her neck as she was sitting at the kitchen table that morning using her computer. He said he then stabbed her in the chest.
Before his sentence was imposed, he told the court he wanted “people to realize how really bad” drug abuse can get.
“Though it was my choice and I accept full responsibility,” he said, “… I would just hope that with everything in the news right now, everything that’s going on with drug addiction — specifically, heroin addiction — that people will pause and realize how bad it is.”
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, told the court there is help available for drug addicts and there was help available for Bertolina.
“It is almost unfathomable to believe that a person would take the life of their own parent who is trying to help them and support them through their problem,” Mr. Lingo said. “Instead of seeking help, he brutally murdered her.”
The judge said she received letters from relatives describing Ms. Bertolina with words like “caring, loving, hard worker, sound citizen.” A longtime employee of The Blade’s circulation department, she was devoted to family and devoted to her only child.
“She watched over you when you were young. She supported you as you grew up,” Judge Franks said. “She tried her best — and it was a tremendous effort on her part — she tried to seek the professional support to assist you in the choices you were making.”
Relatives did not speak in court, but the victim’s cousin, Kathye Zaper of Maumee, said afterward that she found the killer’s statement in court “very selfish. He couldn’t admit to the fact that he did it — he blamed it on the drugs. That’s a sociopath.”
She said she felt no empathy for him. “The sentence he received is far better than the one he gave his mother,” Ms. Zaper added. “I know she’s in heaven, and he has to face — his ultimate judgment will come from God.”
Bertolina had been out of jail on bond for a burglary charge in Wood County when he stabbed his mother to death.
His attorney, Gretchen DeBacker, said he pleaded guilty to that charge last week in Wood County Common Pleas Court and received a six-year sentence to run at the same time as the Lucas County sentence.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.