There was concern about whether a jury would impose the death penalty.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A South Side man pleading guilty to two drug-related killings has avoided the death penalty and instead will spend 26 years in prison.
Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court has sentenced Lance Lynch, 27, of Chicago Avenue, to 10 years each on two counts of voluntary manslaughter and three years each on two firearm specifications.
Lynch pleaded guilty to killing Robert J. Mahar, 39, of Watervliet, N.Y., in November 2001 and Eddie Lenord, 39, of Youngstown, in late December the same year.
Mahar was tortured
Lynch bound Mahar's hands and mouth with duct tape, tied him to a pole in his basement and tortured the victim for hours before killing him and dumping the body at an East Side home. Mahar's body had 37 distinct injuries, including 14 gunshot entrance wounds, an autopsy showed.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty because of the brutal nature of the crime.
Mahar was a truck driver who bought drugs from Lynch when he passed through Youngstown. He owed Lynch $600 for drugs.
Lenord was found dead on the living-room floor of his apartment on Willis Avenue, shot several times in the chest. Prosecutors said that killing was also over money owed to Lynch for drugs.
Lynch's lawyers subsequently tried to challenge the state's death penalty law. The Lynch case also was caught up in controversy over delayed autopsy reports.
Lynch is credited with serving more than 31/2 years of his sentence already because of the issues.
Once those issues were resolved, prosecutors had to determine whether to proceed with a capital murder case or take a plea, said assistant county Prosecutor Jay Macejko.
The law on homicide has changed since the murders, giving prosecutors more options, he said. But in the Lynch case prosecutors were limited to either a long and expensive trial or voluntary manslaughter pleas, he said.
Macejko said there was concern about whether a jury would impose the death penalty considering the drug-dealing nature of the case.
The practical decision was to take the plea, he said. The 26-year sentence is still fairly stiff, because Lynch will be imprisoned until he is in his 50s, Macejko said.