Hundley sentenced to death for Huff murder


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By JOE GORMAN

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Hundley sentenced to death

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Lance Hundley told a judge he plans to appeal his death sentence for the November 2015 beating and strangulation death of Erika Huff. With little fanfare Tuesday, Judge Maureen Sweeney upheld a jury’s death-penalty recommendation in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Lance Hundley told a judge he plans to appeal his death sentence for the November 2015 beating and strangulation death of Erika Huff.

With little fanfare Tuesday, Judge Maureen Sweeney upheld a jury’s death-penalty recommendation in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Hundley, 48, of Warren, who fired two sets of lawyers and once fired a set twice in the same day, fired them again shortly after he was convicted May 21 of aggravated murder for the Nov. 6, 2015, death of Huff, 41, at her Cleveland Street home and of attempted murder and aggravated arson for beating Huff’s mother, Denise Johnson.

He represented himself in the mitigation hearing. He presented jurors with no facts to outweigh the specification they found Hundley guilty of that made him eligible for the death penalty: that Hundley killed or tried to kill two or more people in the same course of conduct.

When given a chance to speak just before the death sentence was handed down, Hundley said, “The only statement I have to make is I plan on appealing the decision.”

Judge Sweeney also sentenced Hundley to an additional 22 years on the attempted murder and arson charges.

Huff’s brother, Jonathan Huff, said the family can now begin the healing process.

“It was a long two and a half years, but we got justice today for my sister and my mother,” Huff said. “Now we can put this behind us. We can finally get some closure.”

Helping with the healing process were 10 jurors from the trial, who came to hear the sentencing. One of them, who asked that her identity not be used, said they felt they needed to support the Huffs.

“By the heinous nature of the crime, we owed the family our love and support,” the juror said.

Victim-impact statements were given by Erika Huff’s best friend, Kristin Howard, and by Huff’s sister-in-law, Roshey Huff.

Howard read from the eulogy she gave at Erika Huff’s funeral, describing how her friend since they were 10 years old was a fantastic dancer. Erika had multiple sclerosis, but she still graduated college and had a daughter, Howard said. She said Huff did not let the disease limit her.

Roshey Huff read a letter to the judge she said was written Sunday by Erika’s 8-year-old daughter. The girl wrote she was angry at Hundley and that she misses her mother.

“What you did to my mother was a very bad thing,” the girl wrote. “I wish I knew why you murdered her. I’m sad, but I’m also mad.”

Prosecutors said Hundley was staying with Erika, who had a child with Hundley’s brother, when he attacked her. During the struggle, Erika’s medical-alert bracelet went off and Johnson went to the home to assist paramedics.

She testified she saw Hundley with a gas can before he beat her with a hammer so hard it broke, then threw her into a bedroom with Erika’s body. Hundley set fire to the room, and Johnson was able to get out after she rattled a window air conditioner that police officers outside heard. They took the unit out of the window and freed Johnson from the flames.

In his own testimony, Hundley said he fell asleep on the couch and woke up to someone “choking him out” and he lost consciousness again. When he regained consciousness, he testified he saw a man leaving Huff’s room holding a gas can. Later, he said, Johnson came in the home and told him to stay calm so they could get their stories right for the police, and in a car outside he saw Johnson’s husband and the man who he claimed was in Erika’s room when he woke up.

Jurors who wished to remain anonymous said the story was, as one put it, absurd. “He insulted our intelligence,” a juror said.

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