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Life term for murderer disappoints victims' kin

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Jeffrey Zenowicz cries as victim impact statements are read at the sentencing. His attorney, Jeff Helmick, is with him.


FREMONT - Knowing Jeffrey Zenowicz will spend the rest of his life in prison was not enough for the families of murder victims Claudia Fonseca and Leslie Slone.

"He has no right to see his kids because he took away my brother's right to see his kids," Stacy Slone said yesterday after Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge Harry Sargeant, Jr., imposed a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Zenowicz, 35, of Marblehead.

A three-judge panel deliberated more than 4 1/2 hours before announcing it would not impose the death sentence.

"If the shoe had been on the judge's foot, you know the outcome would have been different," said Rita Slone, mother of Leslie Slone, 30, whose throat was slashed by Zenowicz on July 3, 2004.

Cathy Fonseca said she had mixed emotions about the death penalty but felt the life sentence did not compensate for the loss of her sister. Zenowicz drowned Claudia Fonseca, 40, in the bathtub of her Fremont home hours after killing Mr. Slone.

"I believe an eye for an eye, and I don't think we got it," Cathy Fonseca said afterward. "I know we're all very disappointed right now."


Stacy Slone speaks, flanked by his mother, Rita Slone, left, and victim advocate Sue Jenkins. Zenowicz killed ex-girlfriend Claudia Fonseca and Rita Slone's son Leslie.


Judge Sargeant, Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge James Sherck, and retired 6th District Court of Appeals Judge Richard Knepper considered testimony from two clinical psychologists, Zenowicz's former mother-in-law, and a former co-worker before imposing the life sentence.

Stacy Slone and Cathy Fonseca read victim impact statements to the panel. As Cathy Fonseca read a "letter from heaven" in her sister's memory, Zenowicz began crying.

He was convicted in March on four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, and one count each of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and attempted aggravated arson during a trial before the three-judge panel in March. While he did not take the stand in his defense and declined to make a statement before sentencing, Zenowicz confessed to killing Ms. Fonseca, his former girlfriend, and her friend Mr. Slone during a five-hour videotaped interview with detectives on July 5, 2004.

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt argued yesterday that the confession was not evidence of remorse. Zenowicz, he said, neither apologized for his acts nor took responsibility, instead placing blame for problems with his relationship with Ms. Fonseca on her father.

The judges did not seem to agree. In a written opinion, they said they gave great weight to Zenowicz's "emotional confession to his crimes," which was evidence that he had accepted responsibility for the murders. They also considered the psychologists' testimony about his neuropsychological problems and the fact that he had custody of his two sons since his divorce "and was financially supporting them as well."

Defense attorneys Adrian Cimerman and Jeff Helmick, who worked to spare Zenowicz's life, were not declaring victory. "It's sad for everybody," Mr. Cimerman said. "There are no winners."

Mr. Helmick concurred. "Two people are dead. He'll spend the rest of his life in prison, and his boys will grow up without their father," he said. "This is no cause for celebration - just relief and gratitude that the death penalty was not imposed."

In addition to two life sentences with no possibility of parole, Zenowicz was sentenced to 20 additional years for attempted aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, and tampering with evidence. The two counts of murder were dismissed.

Contact Jennifer Feehan


or 419-353-5972.

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