Muffled tears echoed around the courtroom as Adams County Judge Michael George began to speak.
"I can only offer my sympathy to the family," George said, "and hope that it somehow brings some closure and peace to each of you."
Peace that would be hard to come by, said members of the Leonard family, as they stood up to speak at the sentencing hearing of one of their own - Jonathan Leonard, 26, of McSherrystown.
Leonard on Tuesday appeared in Adams County court and pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the murder of his aunt, Christiana Leonard, 64.
Leonard was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus a consecutive sentence of 7 to 20 years, for his guilty pleas to first-degree murder and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
He admitted to murdering his aunt in her 725 Third St. home in Conewago Township on April 9, 2012. As told by Dr. Frank Dattilio, a clinical and forensic psychologist who evaluated Leonard, he originally went to her house that day looking for money to feed his drug addiction.
Dattilio described Leonard as a "garbage head" who was looking to get high on nearly any type of drug, including cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and bath salts, a drug with an effect similar to ecstasy.
When Jonathan arrived at his aunt's house, she let him in and made him a sandwich, Dattilio testified, but she soon became concerned with his state and told him that he needed help. Christiana then told Jonathan that she was going to call the
"That's when he impulsively struck her with a flower vase in the back of the head," Dattilio said.
The coroner's report also indicates that the victim suffered from multiple facial bruises, a broken nose, subdural hemorrhaging, forcible rape, and seven broken ribs, all of which were sustained while she was still alive.
"His intention was not to kill, just to keep her from making the call," Dattilio testified. "He did realize that he had overdone it, but couldn't control himself."
Dattilio, who conducted two psychological evaluations of Leonard and extensively reviewed his medical and criminal records, testified that Leonard has a long history with mental illness. Leonard's mental deficits became apparent from at age 2, when he was diagnosed with developmental delays and Attention Deficit Disorder, Dattilio said.
"He was placed in special-ed classes and was very quickly ridiculed by other kids at school as retarded," Dattilio said.
Dattilio also testified that there was turmoil in the Leonard home because Jonathan's father was an alcoholic who verbally abused him. Jonathan's mother, on the other hand, was attentive and did all that she could to steer him in the right direction, Dattilio testified.
Throughout his school years, Jonathan was also diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and a pervasive developmental disorder, which placed him on the autism spectrum, Dattilio testified.
"He engaged in anti-social behavior, had difficulty determining right from wrong, and difficulty bonding," Dattilio told the court. "He also had terrible impulse control. These are diagnoses that are lifelong. They do not go away."
These disorders were compounded by drug use later in life as Jonathan Leonard began to overuse marijuana and snort his ADD Ritalin medication, Dattilio testified. Jonathan first found himself in trouble with the law in the eighth grade when he was caught with drug paraphernalia in school and was sent to a juvenile boot camp program.
"He did well in these programs while he was in the programs," Dattilio said, "but when he got back into the community there was not enough structure."
In high school Leonard spent one year at a correctional boarding school where he did well and even earned a good character award, but upon his return home he quickly found himself in trouble again, Dattilio testified.
He also spent time in Adams County prison after burglarizing the homes of his parents and his aunt, Christiana. After he was released he was put on house arrest, but after cutting off his monitor he was placed back into prison, Dattilio said.
Jonathan Leonard was released from prison in February 2012, about two months before his aunt's murder. While he was in prison, Jonathan's father passed away from a heart attack, an event that very much moved Jonathan, Dattilio testified. At the time of the murder, Jonathan Leonard also was depressed and entertaining thoughts of suicide, Dattilio said.
"He was hoping to overdose and die," Dattilio said.
Jonathan Leonard, Dattilio testified, said that he had planned to overdose after he left his aunt's house on April 9 and that he had already been intoxicated when he arrived at her house. Police, however, found no evidence he was intoxicated, said Adams County Assistant District Attorney Brian Sinnett.
"This was only self-reported use," Sinnett said.
Jonathan Leonard's reported intoxication was brought up at Tuesday's sentencing hearing by Judge George, who reminded Leonard that if he pursued this line of argument, he could be given a lesser sentence. Involuntary intoxication negates the intent to kill, George said, so if it were found to be true, Jonathan would only be charged with third-degree murder, which has a maximum life sentence of 40 years in prison.
By pleading guilty but mentally ill, Jonathan refused that defense.
Dattillio testified that his evaluations found the mentally ill classification to be fitting for Jonathan Leonard, who while in custody, was also diagnosed with organic brain dysfunction, a cognitive disorder. Jonathan Leonard also was diagnosed with borderline intellectual functioning that is "one step away from mild mental retardation," Dattilio said.
Because of this, Dattilio said, Jonathan Leonard knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he was unable to control his impulses and conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.
"He does need further psychiatric treatment," Dattilio said, advocating for Jonathan Leonard's placement in a facility that could deal with his unique needs, "and this structured environment would be best."
This did not seem to console family members who spoke of Christiana Leonard as a loving woman who did nothing but support Jonathan.
"She believed he deserved a second chance," said Robbin Leonard, Christiana's sister-in-law. "She loved him and was adamant that Jon would never hurt anyone."
Leonard himself spoke up to apologize to his family, saying that he was not a monster and that he "he wished it had all been a dream."
"I loved Aunt Chris with all my heart just as much as everyone in the family did," Jonathan said.
Then addressing the many family members who had crowded into the victim's side of the courtroom, he said, "I love each and every one of you. If you want nothing to do with me, I understand."
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About the case
Christiana Leonard's body was found at her home April 10 after she did not report to work. Authorities said she had sustained severe blunt-impact injuries to her face and head during an apparent struggle with her killer. Police also found a broken vase, a broken chair and a broken and overturned table.
A wooden rolling pin with blood on it was also found. Traces of blood were found throughout the house, and Leonard had a fingernail partially torn, apparently during a struggle, according to court documents.
The coroner's report indicates Christiana Leonard died of a blunt impact to the head, and it ruled her manner of death a homicide.