Friday, January 05, 2018 6:07 PM
OTTAWA — After deliberating for just over six hours a Putnam County jury returned a verdict of guilty in the aggravated murder trial of Michael Luebrecht.
The material facts of the case were never in question. In the early afternoon of May 23, 2005, Luebrecht went to the home of his children’s babysitter, picked up his 14-month-old son, Joel, returned to the family’s Fort Jennings home, and drowned him in the bath. In the 911 call Luebrecht placed to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office shortly after the murder, Luebrecht immediately confessed to the crime.
“I drowned my son in the bath,” Luebrecht told Putnam County 911 Coordinator Brad Brubaker, who served as dispatcher on that day nearly 13 years ago. According to testimony presented by law enforcement personnel who were at the scene, Luebrecht reiterated his confession whenever questioned. When the case came to court in February of 2006, Luebrecht entered a plea of guilty to the charge, and received a sentence of 25 years to life.
Then, in November of 2016, Luebrecht, through his attorney, Danny Hill II, filed a motion to withdraw his plea, citing new evidence offering mitigating circumstances. The motion was granted by Putnam County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Basinger on May 5, setting the stage for the four-day trial that began on Tuesday, Jan. 2 and concluded on Friday.
The heart of the defense revolved around involuntary intoxication. Recognized in many states, including Ohio, as a viable defense in crimes of intent, involuntary intoxication typically involves alcohol or illegal recreational drugs, such as LSD or cocaine, unwittingly consumed by a defendant. However, in the case of Luebrecht, who has a decades-long history of mental illness — specifically depression and Obessive Compulsive Disorder — the defense maintained a slurry of antidepressants and antipsychotics, improperly administered by what Hill asserted were irresponsible doctors, resulted in the defendant’s involuntary intoxication.
Both the prosecution and the defense focused on Luebrecht’s mental attitude, demeanor and affect at the time of the crime. Witnesses for both sides described Luebrecht as impassive, calm and emotionless. While the prosecution attributed that impassivity to Luebrecht’s OCD — a condition discounted as an insanity defense in this case — the defense maintained it was a consequence of medicine-induced psychosis. Witnesses for the prosecution included sheriff’s office deputies and emergency personnel dispatched to the scene. Witnesses for the defense included friends and family members, among whom was Luebrecht’s wife, Amy, who remained resolute in her defense of her husband then and now.
Additionally, both sides offered expert witnesses in the field of psychiatry to present testimony. Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who for decades has championed alternatives to psychopharmaceuticals, appeared for the defense, asserting Luebrecht’s medications, not his illness and not Leubrecht himself, responsible for the crime. Dr. Thomas Sherman and Dr. Doug Beech — forensic psychiatrists from Toledo and Worthingington, respectively — appeared for the prosecution. Both men testified intoxication played no role in the murder, with Sherman deeming the notion “preposterous” and Beech asserting the OCD as the primary cause of Luebrecht’s action.
After the jury read the verdict, Luebrecht’s head sagged. Family members and friends who attended the trial wept as they left the courtroom, many professing their love for Luebrecht as they passed him by.
A sentencing hearing in the matter is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m. in Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
For the full story, see Wednesday’s Sentinel.