The late James Briscoe is shown with his daughter, Cheryl Kennedy, left, and his wife, Cynthia Briscoe.
WAUSEON - A Lucas County man who killed his disabled father-in-law on Valentine's Day and stole his pain medication was sentenced yesterday to 32 years to life in prison.
The sentence was one year shy of the maximum punishment he could have received for aggravated murder and aggravated robbery convictions.
Jonathan Ray Haas, who was addicted to the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, shot James D. Briscoe, a retired Jeep worker and a Vietnam veteran who had prescriptions for the drug because he had been hurt in a traffic crash.
Then, Haas pushed his father-in-law down the basement steps in the wheelchair that Mr. Briscoe used in his home near Metamora, Ohio in eastern Fulton County.
Mr. Briscoe's widow, Cynthia, and his daughter, Cheryl Kennedy, who was married to Haas when he killed her father, said in court that they would carry on with joyous living and rearing Cheryl and Haas' daughter, despite their loss of Mr. Briscoe.
"I will not let life pass me by: That would be an insult to Jim's memory," Mrs. Briscoe told Haas, who kept his head lowered throughout her statement.
But she said Haas' place was behind bars where he will have years to contemplate why he killed his 3-year-old daughter's grandfather, a 56-year-old man who because of injuries from a crash in 2002 was unable to defend himself.
"You have no right to live in a civilized society because you have proven that you cannot control your actions," Mrs. Briscoe said.
"No one stopped your years of criminal activity, each offense more serious than the one before. You thought you were so smart, so clever. You thought you were above the law, and even laughed about it," she said.
Mrs. Kennedy, who divorced Haas and remarried, told him he should have thought of their young daughter before killing Mr. Briscoe.
"Can you just imagine being her for a moment?" Mrs. Kennedy asked. "Because of her father's actions, not only her father but her beloved Papa are gone."
In a very short statement to the court, Haas said, "I just want to apologize for all the pain I've caused."
Before imposing sentence, Fulton County Common Pleas Judge James Barber told Haas, who is from Lucas County, "If anyone were a poster child for showing how badly drugs can bring a person down, you're it."
Haas, who was 24 when he killed Mr. Briscoe, turned 25 in jail. His record, including arson and petty theft convictions, dates to when he was 14.
Judge Barber told Haas that he had done some decent things, such as playing sports at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, from which he graduated in 2000.
But those were far overshadowed by his recklessness, his inability to control his addictions, and the death of a family member by his own hand.
Because of that, Judge Barber said, the minimum prison term of 23 years to life that Haas' defense attorneys requested would not adequately protect the public.
With the term Judge Barber handed down, Haas will be behind bars for at least 32 years - until he is in his mid 50s.
He could have faced the death penalty if he had been found guilty by a jury on the indictments against him. But prosecutors and the Briscoe family accepted a plea agreement in September that eliminated the possibility of the death sentence and dropped other charges against Haas in exchange for his guilty plea to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.
Haas' mother, Beth, and his brother, Jason, who attended the sentencing, declined comment.
They sat on the opposite side of the aisle from 14 Briscoe family members and friends who prayed together before court convened.
Haas' sentence includes the automatic 20 years to life in prison for aggravated murder, plus three years for a gun specification. He was sentenced to nine years for aggravated robbery, a crime that carried a possibility of three to 10 years in prison.
The law allows for that sentence to be served at the same time as his term for murder, but Judge Barber ordered the sentences run consecutively.
The plea agreement dropped four charges against Haas: a second count of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, burglary, and theft of drugs.
The agreement also called for prosecutors to refrain from recommending a sentence for Haas.
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