Suzanne Webb didn't call for the execution of the man who killed her mother. She didn't even ask that he spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In the end, she just didn't feel it was her place.
“You had no right to decide my mom's fate,” Ms. Webb told Thomas Sloniker, Jr., at his sentencing hearing yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. “Similarly, I don't think I have the right to decide yours. I'll leave that in God's hands.”
Sloniker's fate was decided by a panel of three judges. He was given life in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence called for as part of a plea bargain that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.
After he entered a no contest plea Tuesday, the judges found Sloniker, 26, of Toledo, guilty of the aggravated murder and aggravated robbery of Mary Sue Webb, a former high school teacher whose alcohol abuse left her occasionally homeless.
Ms. Webb was 54 when Sloniker brutally beat and strangled her Oct. 29, 1999, near a pond behind Waterford Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center along Garden Lake Parkway.
No motive for the killing has been revealed. The two were seen together shortly before the murder carrying beer as they went into a patch of woods near the nursing home.
Sloniker later showed family members a photo album Ms. Webb had received from Suzanne Webb days before her death. The photos chronicled some of the highlights of her life.
“He was showing people the face of the person he just murdered,” said J. Christopher Anderson, an assistant county prosecutor. “It was a trophy from the crime.”
At yesterday's hearing, Dr. Jeffrey Smalldon a psychologist from Columbus, testified that Sloniker had anti-social personality disorder, which kept him from empathizing with others and truly appreciating what he had done to Ms. Webb.
Before he was sentenced, Sloniker sobbed so hard that he had trouble speaking.
“I'd just like to tell everyone I'm sorry,” he said, turning toward the gallery.
Frederick Dauer, Mary Sue Webb's ex-husband, said he hoped Sloniker was remorseful.
He said even though he and his wife divorced in 1989 because of her alcoholism, her death has left a tremendous void.
In a Blade interview after the hearing, he said his former spouse had the patience that he didn't have to do such things with their son as teach him to play the piano and drive the cart for him while he played golf. Their son is a 16-year-old sophomore at St. Francis de Sales High School.
On Tuesday, Mr. Dauer described Ms. Webb as a talented woman who taught high school at Cardinal Stritch and Central Catholic, performed in vaudeville shows, and danced as a Rockette for the University of Toledo.
Alcoholism and possibly a bi-polar disorder that was diagnosed a few years ago cut short the abilities she had shown earlier in her life, Deb Carcus, her cousin, said after the hearing.
“Maybe in the earlier years if somebody had diagnosed her as bi-polar, we might have had a different person,” Ms. Carcus said. “We just thought, `She's drinking, she's drinking,' but maybe it was depression.”
Suzanne Webb, a teacher who traveled from Los Angeles to be at the sentencing, said outside the courtroom that it was frustrating to watch her mother's potential wasted over the years. Remarkably, she told the judges she has been able to find something positive in her mother's death: “My mom finally has peace,” she said.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Robert Christiansen and visiting common pleas Judges Robert Pollex of Wood County and Joseph Schmenk of Defiance County heard the case.