The Blade/Dave Zapotosky Sarah Bunch is subdued by a Wood County sheriff's deputy after her emotional outburst upon learning she will serve 13 years in prison for killing a Northwood man and setting his house on fire.
BOWLING GREEN - Saying Sarah Bunch was shown considerable leniency in a plea agreement that reduced the charges against her, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry Friday ordered her to serve 13 years in prison - the maximum sentence - for shooting a Northwood man to death and then setting his house ablaze.
Bunch, 21, of Perrysburg Township cried out in anger after hearing the sentence and was removed from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.
Though indicted for aggravated murder, aggravated arson, and tampering with evidence, Bunch pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter, arson, and attempted tampering with evidence stemming from the Dec. 8, 2008, shooting death of Robert Porter, 60, of Northwood, a longtime carpenter at the University of Toledo.
Bunch maintained she killed him in self-defense. She told investigators she agreed to let him take photos of her seminude, but he became aggressive and tried to sexually assault her. That's when she took a gun she had taken to his house and shot him twice in the head, she said.
"You indicate in your very first remarks that I hold your future in my hands," Judge Mayberry told her. "On December the 8th, you held your future in your hands, and you made the wrong choice on more than one occasion: the first shot, the second shot, not calling the police, setting the fire. All those things are the actions of somebody that is guilty, not somebody that is defending themselves.
"You asked for mitigation, and the court would suggest that you had significant mitigation already by the reduction of the charges that were before the court," he said.
The judge questioned her repeatedly about her statement during a presentence investigation in which she said she shot Mr. Porter a second time because he continued toward her. The autopsy showed the second shot entered through the back of his head.
Bunch said she was moving and Mr. Porter was still talking, still moving after she shot him the first time, so she fired again.
"He turned his head. That's the only thing I can tell you," she said.
Bunch told the court that Mr. Porter had threatened her life and told her she would never see her young son again. She said she felt "the only way out was him or me."
Heather Baker, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, said Bunch changed her story so many times it was difficult to know just what happened that day.
"It's hard to conclude that this was self-defense when she shot him in the back of the head and he was supposedly coming at her," Ms. Baker said. "Not only was he not coming at her, there is no indication … that Mr. Porter had any type of weapon on him. There was no indication that her life was in danger."
Bunch's attorney, Scott Coon, asked for the minimum sentence, saying Bunch had put herself in a bad situation but did not deserve 13 years behind bars. He contended Mr. Porter had attacked her, and it could have been Mr. Porter sitting in court facing rape charges if she had not stopped the assault. "I think she did what she thought she had to do," he said.
Bunch family members were upset by the sentence and said prosecutors should have considered the role Mr. Porter allegedly played in the events.
"I can't believe they gave her more than the recommended sentence," her uncle, Ed Bunch of Toledo, said. "Her son will be 3 in January. He'll be 16 before she's out."
Mr. Porter's three daughters stood before the court before the sentence was imposed, and one, who did not want to give her full name for safety reasons but identified herself as Tina, read a statement that said she did not have an "extensive" relationship with her father but always knew he was only a phone call away if she needed him.
"Our father was a good man. It's unfortunate that his life was unfairly taken so soon," she said. "He was known by many for his willingness to help others and his love for woodworking. He was affectionately known and will forever be remembered as the master carpenter."
- Jennifer Feehan
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