A 50-year prison term is the price a Fort Wayne man will pay for beating his girlfriend in the head with a baseball bat so badly that she died eight days later.
Anthony Ochs, 40, pleaded guilty in Allen Superior Court last month to a single count of voluntary manslaughter in the April 21 death of 42-year-old Susan Jeanine Lombardi, who was beaten April 13 in her home in the 6300 block of High Point Run.
He was sentenced by Judge Fran Gull on Friday morning, but only after several of Lombardi's surviving loved ones publicly forgave him.
Lombardi's father, Jack Caudill Sr., and her brother, Archie Caudill, spoke briefly in court. Her stepmother, Deborah Caudill, took her time.
She too said she forgives Ochs, but she said she wasn't sure that he really grasped what the lethal beating did to her stepdaughter, whom the family called Jeanine but Ochs called Susan.
In more detail than some people's sensibilities might bear, Deborah Caudill explained that when she and her husband first saw Lombardi after the beating, she was all but unrecognizable.
She had a large drain in her skull and a “massive patch” over her left eye, which had “exploded” from the impact of the bat that Ochs swung, Deborah Caudill said. Lombardi bled constantly from her nose, mouth and ears. “Every bone in her face was pulverized,” the dead woman's stepmother said.
Wondering why Ochs beat Lombardi to death, Deborah Caudill said she thinks Lombardi was trying to “escape” Ochs, who would not let her go.
When Judge Gull offered Ochs an opportunity to speak, Ochs' attorney, Randy Fisher, said, “He asked if he could kneel before the family. I didn't think that was appropriate.”
Ochs stood and expressed his sorrow more conventionally.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, I'm so sorry. … I love you all,” said Ochs, who had cried silently before the hearing and at times during it.
“I know you guys had me in your home. I know you guys treated me like your son. I appreciate that,” he said.
“ 'Sorry' can't bring her back. Sorry won't cut it. … I can't apologize enough,” Ochs said. Ochs also apologized to his own mother, who was in court with a few other friends and relatives of his. None of them spoke in court.
Fisher pointed out that Ochs was a decorated military veteran who had served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. He has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, blackouts and fits of rage since returning from military service, Fisher said.
“Those aren't excuses. They aren't defenses. But they are mitigating circumstances we'd like to point out,” Fisher said.
Gull called Ochs' attention to what she called the gift he had been given by an “extraordinary family,” adding that “forgiveness is not an easy thing.”
She sentenced him to 50 years in prison. With credit for 357 days already served in the Allen County Jail, he could be eligible for release in a little more than 24 years if he avoids serious trouble in prison.