Original article no longer available
The Cincinnati Enquirer (OH)
December 15, 1999
Author: TANYA ALBERT; The Cincinnati Enquirer
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Love gets life for murder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Friday, February 04, 2000
BY DAN HORN, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Lance Love went to prison Thursday for strapping James Osterbrock into a chair and strangling him until he died.
Mr. Love was spared the possibility of a death sentence largely because Mr. Osterbrock’s relatives told prosecutors they did not want to go through the ordeal of a murder trial. Because of the family’s request, prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that sent Mr. Love to prison for life without possibility of parole. “There was a strong desire by the family to avoid a trial,” said Prosecutor Mike Allen. “We decided this was appropriate. We feel justice was done.” Mr. Osterbrock, 52, was found May 13 in the basement of his Liberty Hill home. Police say he had been strangled and then hidden beneath plastic bags. “He was a good man,” Mr. Allen said. “He’s a person who wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Mr. Osterbrock’s relatives left the courtroom without comment but handed out a brief statement.
“A tragedy as senseless as the murder of our beloved Jim has brought tremendous sadness,” they said in the state ment. “We preferred to avoid reliving the horror of the events surrounding Jim’s murder.” Mr. Love’s guilty plea came at the start of a brief and unusual hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The hearing was scheduled last month after Mr. Love told Judge Melba Marsh he would rather have a panel of three judges decide his fate than a panel of 12 randomly selected jurors.
Mr. Love, 32, told the judges he would plead guilty to all charges against him, including theft, aggravated burglary and aggravated murder. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors told the judges that the circumstances of Mr. Love’s crime did not rise to the level of a death penalty offense. Mr. Love’s defense attorneys, Perry Ancona and Steve Wenke, then gave the judges sworn statements from doctors and Mr. Love’s relatives. The statements, they said, supported their argument that Mr. Love should be spared a death sentence. In the statements, Mr. Love was portrayed as a troubled man who endured years of abuse as a child and, as an adult, turned to drugs and petty crimes.
His half-sister, Ramona Washington, described years of abuse at the hands of a family member. “He was getting whooped with a belt, a paddle, the billy (club),” she said. “He would get smacked. He would get punched.” A psychiatrist who examined Mr. Love said he suffered from depression and anxiety. He said he showed little emotion and occasionally experienced “auditory hallucinations.” Prosecutors said the murder occurred late on May 9 when Mr. Love entered the home, led Mr. Osterbrock to the basement at gunpoint, tied him up and strangled him.
In a statement to police, Mr. Love said Mr. Osterbrock interrupted him while he was robbing the home. He said he tied him up but did not kill him. After leaving the house for a few hours, Mr. Love said, he returned to find Mr. Osterbrock slumped in the chair, strangled by the electrical cord used to bind him. But Deputy Coroner Robert Pfalzgraf testified that marks on Mr. Osterbrock’s neck suggested someone had manually strangled him. The three judges — Ms. Marsh, Richard Niehaus and Norbert Nadel — considered the evidence for about 20 minutes before agreeing to sentence Mr. Love to life in prison without parole. When asked if he had anything to say, Mr. Love shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m a little surprised he didn’t at least say he was sorry,” Mr. Allen said later. “An apology to the family would have been nice.”