By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A state judge on Wednesday sentenced an Ohio man to life in prison for fatally shooting his two teenage sisters and critically wounding a family friend, the man's attorney said.
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler sentenced Matthew Hayden, 23, in a Cincinnati court for the October 2015 fatal shootings, Hayden's attorney Bernard Mundy said. The earliest he will be eligible for parole is 56 years.
Mundy said Hayden blamed mental illness for what happened.
“It was an unspeakable tragedy, one that the family will never get over,” Mundy said by telephone. Hayden’s parents, who spoke in court on Wednesday, had hoped for a shorter sentence, Mundy added.
“Matthew has a severe mental illness, but it just did not rise to the level of an insanity defense,” Mundy said. “He is sick about what happened. He is not able to get it out of his mind and understands the wrongfulness of his conduct.”
In February, Hayden pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder for the deaths of Sarah Hayden, 16, and Elizabeth Hayden, 17, and the attempted aggravated murder of a family friend.
Prosecutors said Hayden shot his sisters and Joshua Hacker, who was 17 at the time, with a 9mm Beretta handgun as they sat inside a minivan at the family's home in Colerain Township, a Cincinnati suburb. Both girls were pronounced dead at the scene, while Hacker was shot 10 times and survived.
Winkler ruled Hayden incompetent to stand trial in November 2015 and ordered psychological testing. After six months of hospitalization at Summit Behavioral Health Care Hospital in Cincinnati, Hayden was deemed by Winkler competent to stand trial.
Additional time was added to each sentence for the use of a gun in the crime, and the aggravated attempted murder sentence will be served concurrent with the murder sentences. That means Hayden will not be eligible for parole for 56 years.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Ben Klayman and Chizu Nomiyama)