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Suspect in Canfield teacher's murder found dead

Published: Fri, February 10, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.



By Elise Franco



After a statewide manhunt lasting more than 30 hours, police didn’t have to look far to find murder suspect Robert P. McLaughlin.

The man sought in the murder of Stacey Sutera of Canfield was found dead Thursday afternoon in a cemetery near his mother’s gravesite, just a few miles from his Painesville home.

Police said McLaughlin, 64, wanted in the Wednesday murder of the 40-year-old teacher, drove to his mother’s gravesite and killed himself. He was found dead about 1:30 p.m. Thursday by Madison Township police in the Alexander Harper Memorial Cemetery in Unionville Township, Ashtabula County.

Next to the body was the rented gray Chrysler Town & Country van with Ohio license plate EZE 9055.

McLaughlin, who lived on Marsh Lane in Painesville, shot himself in the head with a semiautomatic pistol, said Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci.

The body was found next to his mother’s tombstone, Ashtabula County Coroner’s Investigator Richard Mongell told The Star Beacon newspaper.

“There was some knowledge, through McLaughlin’s family, that he would go to his mother’s gravesite,” Mongell said. “In fact, members of his family searched the Unionville cemetery last night hoping to find him.”

Law enforcement across the state had sought McLaughlin in the shooting that killed Sutera outside her Carriage Hill Apartments condo just after 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Colucci said police believe McLaughlin shot Sutera as she was getting into her car. She was shot multiple times, apparently tried to drive away, and was shot again.

Colucci said law-enforcement officials found a suicide note Wednesday evening in a storage locker in Painesville. The chief said at that point they still believed McLaughlin would remain on the run and not kill himself.

“We did find a suicide letter, but we had good reason to believe he wasn’t dead at the time,” he said.

Colucci said police began closing in on McLaughlin late Thursday morning thanks to tips from several sources who reported his whereabouts.

“Our guys were pushing him,” Colucci said. “We were on his tracks the entire time, and he knew it.”

Colucci said McLaughlin never turned on his cellphone, making it impossible to track, and the rented van had no GPS device in it.

He said the “overwhelming” cooperation among at least six law-enforcement agencies enabled police to close in on McLaughlin just before he died.

Mongell said McLaughlin’s body will not be autopsied.

“The victim is dead, and [McLaughlin] is dead, and we clearly know the cause of death. He left a suicide note, and there were no signs of alcohol or drugs at the scene. There are no signs of foul play in McLaughlin’s death,” he said.

McLaughlin was prosecuted in both Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield in 2010 and in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in 2011.

He was convicted of stalking and harassing Sutera over the course of about nine months in 2010.

McLaughlin was sentenced Dec. 17, 2010, to six months in Mahoning County jail after pleading guilty in Canfield court to misdemeanor charges of menacing by stalking.

He also was indicted on felony charges by a county grand jury in January 2011.

In county court, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to three counts of pandering obscenity and three counts of possessing criminal tools. He was sentenced Nov. 29, 2011, to five years’ probation and 500 hours of community service and fined $2,500. Judge Maureen A. Sweeney also ordered McLaughlin to take anger-management classes, not possess firearms and have no contact with Sutera.

Atty. Gerald Ingram, who represented Sutera in a civil case filed against McLaughlin on Feb. 8, 2011, said he was shocked when he found out his client was murdered.

“In 34 years being a lawyer, that telephone call at 7:30 yesterday [Wednesday] morning was the single worst call of my career,” he said.

Ingram offered his sympathy to the family and to all others who knew Sutera. Colucci also expressed his condolences to Sutera’s family on behalf of the police department.

Roan Craig, superintendent at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center where Sutera worked, said the mood is very quiet at the school, but some are planning to create a scrapbook of memories about Sutera.

Contributor: Margie Netzel of The Star Beacon, Ashtabula.


1steelwagon(284 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Way to go "Turn Em Lose" Sweeney
She had to know this evil rotten sob posed a grave threat to Miss Sutera.

His victim a decent,respected law abiding citizen lived in mortal fear of this sick creep for good reason and Sweeney knew it.

What will it take for this so called judge who has a duty and an obligation to protect victims and the public in general to get it through her thick block like head that there is real evil in this world and by giving them probation she is turning them lose on the public and endangering the lives of innocent people ??!!

Such a needless tragedy for this family to bear.
There are no words of comfort anyone can offer but I would like to extend my most sincere condolences to Miss Sutera's family.

May she finally rest in peace free from torment and fear.

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2CassAnn(252 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Why, oh why don't these morons just skip taking an innocent person with them and shoot themselves FIRST?

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3Attis(922 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

So, after this monster misogynist murdered his stalking victim, police tried to track him but there was no GPS device on his van. Why was there no GPS device on him to track his every move BEFORE he killed her? The telltale signs were all there. Everyone convicted of stalking should be required to wear a GPS device and be monitored by law enforcement to confirm that the law was enforced.

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4WilliamSwinger(341 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Arm yourselves.

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5kensgirl(643 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

There was no GPS on him cause the liberals would be all over it. Haven't you learned yet that the innocent have no rights? This country is going to hell and the liberals are leading the parade.

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6HeMyPO(92 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Hope you feel good about yourself, Judge SWEENEY !!! An Innocent person is Gone because of your Moronic Decision. Way to put the Public first !!

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7ytowntk(5 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

I know Gains is incompetent and now I know Sweeney is too! Had this woman been a relative or knew someone in the legal system she might be alive today!
Had a stalker done this to Seeeney or Gains' family they'd be in the penitentary!
And this guy's lawyer can join him in hell!

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8kathyg(6 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

I agree with anyone who feels that if one has conceived a plan to kill another, or do bodily harm to them, that they opt to do the right thing ,which is to kill his or her self first, before their ill conceived plot has been implemented.

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9DwightK(1304 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Is the media going to speak with the judge who sentenced this man to anger management classes? Was the sentence handed down the best that could be done for the charges? Should he have been sentenced more harshly? These questions need answers.

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10polandfan(24 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Anyone believe they DIDN'T know where he was yesterday? You mean to tell me that they had the van description, a license number, a suicide note, knew where he lived...and yet he alluded everyone for over 24 hours and then drove through town to a cemetery at 1:30 in the afternoon and killed himself....and NOBODY saw ANYTHING?
At least his final actions saved everyone a lot more grief.

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11Maggie_Pentz(86 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

They really should autopsy this guy just to make sure that he didn't have a brain tumor or something. To be so crazy and end up killing a family friend...I don't know. I was curious to hear if they found anything in an autopsy and now they're not going to do one?

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12tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

I've been listening to and reading the news coverage of this terrible incident since it first happened. I, too, am sad and sorry that such a lovely person, who was an asset to our community and who had so much more life to live, has died in such a horrific manner, but I am amazed at some of the comments being made here. What bothers me is the clear and overwhelming desire to blame our justice system for what happened. Like so many other senseless crimes, we have seen this kind of thing before, but I think to place the blame for it on a system that is limited to enforcing the law as it is written borders on the absurd. As we have seen, current stalking laws across this country are ineffective, to say the least, and until we, as concerned citizens, insist that new laws be written that make this a more serious crime and that mete out stronger punishment for initial offenses, there is only so much law enforcement and the courts can do. If you read the whole story, this had been an ongoing saga since mid-2010. McLaughlin had faced various charges and did spend time in jail on misdemeanor charges of menacing by stalking. The felony charges in Sweeney's Court were for pandering obscenity and possessing criminal tools and those are the charges for which he received probation. He was also ordered, among other things, to not have any contact with Ms. Sutera. Some of you seem to think that the Judge, the Prosecutor's Office and law enforcement officials should have known that McLaughlin would not follow the conditions of his probation and should have acted on that knowledge. As much as I want to agree with you, I can't because that isn't how our system of justice works. Our laws do not allow any of us to arrest, prosecute, judge or determine punishment based on what we think somone might do. This is a fundamental principle of our system and it's not one I'm ready to abandon just yet. If we truly want to honor Ms. Sutera and enure she will not have died in vain, we should demand that legislation be introduced across the legislative spectrum that, as I stated above, make stalking the crime it truly is. Finally, I believe the blame for this tragedy rests squarely and soley on the shoulders of Robert P. McLaughlin. He was a spoiled, self-centered, sick man and a coward to boot. To blame anyone else for what he did is scapegoating.

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13kensgirl(643 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Hate to disagree with you Tonne but Sweeney has a long history of letting psychos go. This isn't her first trip to the prom. When Sweeney saw his past behaviors she SHOULD have known being a judge for as long as she has that anger management does not work. She cannot be surprised that this happened. This death lies solely in her court. BTW, if anyone wants to know who the honest but toughest judges are ask a cop. They have to deal with them every day and could tell you a thing or two about who really deserves to be called Your Honor. Scott Krichbaum and Jim Evans are two of the best. No criminal wants to go before them.

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14muf65fin(27 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago


Sweeney is a jerk!
Canfield is no longder a bed room community!

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15tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

kensgirl -- you missed the main point of what I said which was that, in this country, with the system of justice we have in place, we cannot sentence criminals for what we think they might do. We can only sentence them for what they actually do. As you know, often there is a broad choice in the sentence that can be given. Since I wasn't in court the day McLaughlin was sentenced, I can't say why Judge Sweeney made the choice she made and, unless you were there, neither can you. We don't know what persona he presented in court. He may have been contrite and remorseful, as abusive people often are when confronted by authority figures. In hindsight, I agree with you (and perhaps she does, too) that her decision was a bad one. But it is conjecture to say she should have known that mandated counseling wouldn't work or that the other conditions of parole would be ignored. In addition, to say that responsibility for Ms. Sutera's death lies solely in Sweeney's court essentially absolves McLaughlin of any and all responsibility for his actions. He made the choice to obtain weapons and to use them to kill a defenseless woman. He alone is responsbile for that. Let me say also that as a former legal secretary, I am familiar with the reputations of most of the judges currently sitting on the bench. But I wasn't discussing court reputations. I was discussing our system of justice. It is a system that strives for balance and fairness. It is not a perfect system, and sometimes, because of human influence and interpretation, it is neither balanced nor fair. But when it does not work as well as we think it should, as citizens of a democratic republic, we have both the right and the power to fix it. If we don't like the laws as they are written, we can work to get them changed. If we don't like the decisions judges and other elected officials make, we can vote them out of office. Which is what I suggest people do who feel that Judge Sweeney isn't doing her job as well or as effectively as she should.

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16tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

olddude -- I agree that we coddle our ciminals and that we need to overhaul our system of punishment. I am a proponent of the death penalty and believe that it is a waste of taypayer dollars to incarcerate those who are truly vicious and heinous for infinite periods of time. I kinda of part ways with you, however, in fixing responsibility for the way things are solely on the "Left." I believe that I am a moderate, and if you read my previous posting to kensgirl, you will see that I also believe that each of us has the ability to change things by taking action to demand change and by voting irresponsible people out of office. When we have less than 25% of those eligible to vote actually doing so, we have only ourselves to blame if the country is not going in the direction we think it should. There is strength and power in numbers and every vote does count. A fact those on the left seem to comprehend all too well.

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17kensgirl(643 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

tonne - - I worked in the criminal justice field and in psychiatric nursing quite a few years. I know what I'm talking about. You stated that "maybe he showed remorse in the courtroom". Do you think he was really remorseful or just wanted to put on a show for the judge? Sweeney has been in law much longer than I so she should know how the stalker's mind works. Geez you see it on t.v. EVERYDAY!! These psychos CANNOT be rehabilitated - just like sex perverts. The only thing you can do is throw their sick ass in prison forever before they kill. A BLIND MAN COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING C'MON!!! I bet this guy was laughing at Sweeney all the way to the scene of the crime. I have no problem with Gaines. He took a bullet for honesty and he does the best he can. What judges do with that information presented is up to them. Sweeny you were DEAD wrong on this one!

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18truckerwalt(1 comment)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

with the technology we possess there is no excuse for a stalker to be able to get close enough to harm their victim. the police should at the very least put a gps device on the stalker so that they can find him anytime on a moments notice. the victim should also be so equipped and anytime the stalker gets within a mile of his victim the police should get an emergency signal and the victim should also get a signal on her device warning her. then the victim should be given the option of getting a concealed weapons permit and defensive training. the stalker should be required to pay for her training, her permit and also for her gun. this is a hell of a way to have to live but it is much better than becoming a victim of some psycho. if these type of stalkers like to do their deeds on anniversery dates then they should be picked up and thrown back in jail for a few weeks or forever if any attempt is made to get close to their intended victim. it really would be better to end the stalkers life and save the world a lot of worry and expense--yeah i know we are much too civilized to do anything that makes that much sense. our biggest problem here is we have too many over educated bleeding heart liberals, read IDIOTS, running the system.

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