Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Victim's family had OK'd plea deal with prosecutor

        HAMILTON — Franklin Saunders might have saved his life by agreeing to a plea bargain Monday,the day his murder trial was to begin.

        In exchange for a life sentence without parole, Mr. Saunders pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, kidnapping and violating a court order not to have weapons. He killed ex-girlfriend Lisa Weber.

        “You have indeed committed the ultimate offense,” Judge H.J. Bressler of Butler County Common Pleas Court told him. “It is the intention of this court that you never be free again.”

        Besides the life sentence without parole for aggravated murder, Judge Bressler and the other two members of the three-judge panel, Michael Sage and Patricia Oney, added 34 years for the other charges and specifications.

        Prosecutor John Holcomb said he received the consent of Ms. Weber's family before he agreed to the plea bargain.

        He said the sentence ensures Mr. Saunders never will be on the streets again and enables his family and Ms. Weber's family to avoid the emotional stress of a long trial.

        Pointing out that there have been no criminal executions in Ohio since 1963, Mr. Holcomb said a death sentence wouldn't have guaranteed that Mr. Saunders would wind up in the electric chair. —Steve Kemme


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