Thursday, January 24, 2002

Man faces prison time in beating case

Victim died after attack in park

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Thomas Back will have to spend at least 8 1/2 years in prison after entering an Alford plea to the charge of first-degree manslaughter in the death of 80-year-old Eugene Schulkers.

        The Alford plea means Mr. Back, 23, of Covington maintains his innocence but agrees that the Commonwealth Attorney's office has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

        Mr. Schulkers was beaten June 5, 2000, in a public restroom at James Taylor Park in Newport.

        He died nine days later at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Fort Thomas, officially from a heart attack.

        Doctors who examined Mr. Back last year at the request of Campbell Circuit Court Judge Leonard Kopowski had differing views of whether the defendant was mentally ill.

        They agreed, however, that he had mental problems at the time of the beating.

        A Campbell County grand jury declined to indict Mr. Back on the original charge of murder and instead brought back an indictment of manslaughter, charging him with beating Mr. Schulkers “under extreme emotional disturbance.”

        Campbell Commonwealth Attorney Jack Porter said he had not anticipated that Mr. Back would accept the plea agreement that calls for a 10-year sentence, the minimum on the first-degree manslaughter charge.

        The earliest he could be considered for parole would be after serving 8 1/2 years of the sentence.

        One aspect of the case that could have come out at trial was whether Mr. Back's beating broke Mr. Schulkers' neck, or the break in his spinal column occurred after he was in the hospital.

        The break resulted in breathing problems that led to the heart attack, according to Mr. Back's attorney, Steve Dowell.

        Mr. Back will be sentenced March 19.


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