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Published: Tuesday, 9/25/2007

Hillsdale County man gets life sentence for 2 murders


HILLSDALE - A man convicted of shooting and killing two sisters who were his neighbors and then setting a nearby home on fire with a shotgun blast to a gas line yesterday was given a life prison sentence.

Stephen Moench, 55, was sentenced during a hearing in Hillsdale County Circuit Court.

After hearing testimony for about a day and a half, a jury convicted him Aug. 24 on two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count each of arson in a dwelling and careless discharge of a weapon.

On the murder convictions, Moench was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

The killings occurred in August, 2006, at the Avra Estates mobile home park in the county's Reading Township, about 80 miles northwest of Toledo.

Moench confronted several women who lived across from his mobile home and started throwing stones at them, authorities said.

They say he then opened fire with a shotgun and killed Viola Mae Morgan, 61, and her sister, Betty A. Brown, 63.

After killing the women, Moench shot at a neighboring mobile home, severing the natural gas line and starting a fire. Two women inside escaped, authorities said. The slain women's sister, Linda Crawford, earlier said neighbors called authorities about Moench's increasingly irrational and scary behavior.

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