Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Child killer's life spared

Father suffocated tot after rape attempt

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — In a decision that stunned prosecutors, a Butler County judge decided Monday to spare the life of Christopher Fuller, who was convicted of killing his 2-year-old daughter while trying to rape her.

        Common Pleas Court Judge Matthew Crehan rejected a jury's recommendation for the death penalty and sentenced Mr. Fuller to life in prison without parole for aggravated murder.

        He called Mr. Fuller's crime “abhorrent,” but said the mitigating factors the law required him to consider outweighed the aggravating circumstances of the crime.

        The judge said Mr. Fuller's lack of a criminal record, his remorse, his mental condition and other factors convinced him that life without parole was a more appropriate sentence than the death penalty.

        “How anyone could do this to a child is beyond this court's comprehension,” Judge Crehan said. “Were that the only factor to take into consideration, this court would have no hesitation in inflicting the death penalty on Mr. Fuller.”

        Butler County Prosecutor Dan Gattermeyer, who had argued for the death penalty, expressed his deep disappointment with the sentence.

        “I can't think of any case that is more appropriate for the death penalty,” he said.

        He said it's the first time in the history of Butler County that a judge has refused to follow a jury's recommendation for the death penalty.

        Mr. Fuller's wife, Jessica, testified against him during the trial, but did not advocate a particular penalty.

        “There's not a sentence in the world that's severe enough,” she said after the hearing. “I wish he had never been born.”

        Randi Fuller was killed March 21 at the Hamilton home of Mr. Fuller, 31. In his statement to police, Mr. Fuller said he became angry when his daughter resisted his attempt to sexually assault her and struck her in the chest.

        The prosecution said he suffocated her by covering her mouth and pressing on her chest.

        A jury convicted him of two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted rape. One aggravated murder count is for killing someone during a rape and the other is for killing a child under 13.

        The law permitted Judge Crehan to sentence Mr. Fuller on only one of the aggravated murder charges. On the attempted rape conviction, the judge added eight years to Mr. Fuller's life sentence.

        The jury convicted Mr. Fuller on Sept. 19 and recommended the death sentence Sept. 21.

        Mr. Fuller's attorneys, Ron Morgan and Christopher Pagan, said Judge Crehan's decision was just and legally correct.

        “It takes courage to follow the law,” Mr. Pagan said. “In this case, the law was clear. It didn't justify the death penalty.”


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