Judge upholds death penalty recommendation in Youngstown beating - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Judge upholds death penalty recommendation in Youngstown beating death, arson

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A Mahoning County Judge has passed final judgment, ruling that the 48-year-old man convicted of a 2015 Youngstown beating death and arson case should face the death penalty. 

In court on Tuesday, Judge Maureen Sweeney upheld the jury's unanimous recommendation that Lance Hundley face the death penalty. 

As convicted killer Lance Hundley returned to court for sentencing the faces of the victim's family was a stark reminder that this day is not just about him, but justice for those he victimized. 

Murder victim Erika Huff's brother Jonathan Huff says, "It was a very long two and a half years, but we got justice today for my sister and mother.  Now our family can continue to mend and put this behind us, and begin to heal."

Hundley beat Erika Huff to death in November 2015.  He then attempted to kill her mother Denise Johnson and set the house on fire.

The murder victim was described as a woman full of life, even as she was confined to a wheelchair and battled Multiple Sclerosis.

Her eight-year-old daughter Corrine wrote a letter to the court, and it was read by her Aunt Roshay Huff.

The letter in part read:  "I feel very angry and disappointed because she didn't deserve that, even though she had MS and could not do everything other Mommy's could do.  I will miss calling her Mommy -- "MooMoo."  Her smiles and hugs and how she was so kind.  I wish I knew why you murdered her.  I'm sad, but I'm also mad.  I hate that she will miss my wedding, graduation and watching me grow up.  My Mommy meant everything to me, why, why, why?"  

It didn't take long for Judge Maureen Sweeney to reaffirm what the jury had already recommended.  

"The court hereby orders that Lance Hundley is sentenced to death," Judge Maureen Sweeney said.

Judge Sweeney sentenced Hundley to death for Erika Huff's murder and an additional 22 years in prison.  Eleven years for the attempted murder of Huff's mother Denise Johnson, and eleven more years for setting the home on fire.

As Hundley was sentenced today, in the gallery was most of the jury that convicted him.  Many saying this was an emotional investment and they wanted to see it through including one juror who agreed to do an interview if we didn't reveal her identity, "First of all we weren't expecting him to come that close to us.  But his story was just full of holes.  The prosecution was just able to punch it apart."

This 28-year-old juror says it was clear after hearing testimony from both sides what she needed to do.

"There's no greater evil than the crime he committed against this family.  And it was up to us to punish him to the fullest extent of the law, to show the severity of what he did," Jury member.

Hundley told Judge Sweeney before he was sentenced he only had one thing to say and that is that he plans to appeal.

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