A three-judge panel handed down a life sentence without parole Tuesday for a man who killed his wife, a marriage counselor who had been warned months earlier to escape an abusive home life, in front of her 4-year-old son.
The same Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges who accepted a guilty plea from Maurice Lyons, 39, sentenced him. He avoided a possible death penalty with a plea bargain.
He pleaded guilty to charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape in the July death of Tonya Hunter-Lyons, 42. She was stabbed 17 times in the chest, neck, abdomen and back.
The boy was found abandoned later on a street corner in a tough inner-city neighborhood. Women sitting nearby called police, and the boy told officers that his mother had been stabbed and where to find her.
Early last year, a municipal judge had warned Hunter-Lyons about her husband when he was sentenced on domestic violence charges. The judge said she had seen the pattern of abuse many times and that Hunter-Lyons had other options.
At the time, Lyons pleaded no contest and was convicted on charges of domestic violence and victim intimidation.
Court records show Hunter-Lyons had filed two restraining orders against her husband in the months before she was killed. She founded Success 1 Services, which offered marriage and family counseling.
At the plea hearing Monday, Cleveland police detective Kathleen Carlin described her interview with the boy.
He said he and his mother were preparing to go to the store when they were ambushed in the garage by Hunter, whom he called "daddy," The Plain Dealer reported.
Hunter told the boy to get in the car, forced his wife into a chair in the garage and demanded money, Carlin said. Hunter-Lyons started to cry as the confrontation became violent, the boy told the detective.
He cowered in the backseat of the car and watched in terror as his mother was raped and stabbed, the detective testified.
When asked "where daddy cut mommy?" the boy pointed to his back, Carlin said.