Ohio judge sentences man to death in sledgehammer slayings

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 29, 2015 5:09 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio judge on Monday sentenced a 20-year-old man to death for the April 2013 sledgehammer murder of his girlfriend's mother and also gave him a life sentence for killing her father, the Summit County prosecutor's office said.

Shawn Ford was 18 when he murdered Jeffrey and Margaret Schobert 10 days after stabbing their daughter Chelsea, also 18, in the neck multiple times because she would not "be intimate" with him, prosecutors said.

Ford was found guilty in October of multiple counts of aggravated murder in the parents' deaths and of felonious assault for the attack on Chelsea Schobert, who spent a month in the hospital recovering from her injuries.

In the death penalty phase of the trial, a jury in Akron, Ohio, unanimously recommended Ford be executed for the murder of Margaret Schobert. He did not get the death penalty for the murder of Jeffrey Schobert, which jurors saw as less premeditated.

Prosecutors said Ford walked eight miles to the Schoberts' house in New Franklin, a town south of Akron, and beat Jeffrey Schobert to death with a sledgehammer. He then used the dead man's cell phone to lure Margaret Schobert back to the house from the hospital where her daughter was being treated, and bludgeoned her to death.

Ford's attorneys argued he is intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty. Last week Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker ruled that Ford was not mentally disabled and could be executed after three mental health experts ruled his IQ was not significantly below average.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that intellectually disabled defendants are not eligible for the death penalty.

At the sentencing hearing on Monday, Ford wept and apologized for his crimes, saying "I never wanted to hurt that girl and I never wanted to hurt the Schobert family."

Parker gave Ford an execution date of Dec. 29, 2015. However all Ohio death penalty cases receive an automatic appeal and all executions in the state have been suspended until 2016 after a Federal court judge ruling.

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Mohammad Zargham)