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Two Lifetimes In Prison, Plus 26.5 Years, For Westerville Police Killer

Quentin Smith was found guilty of aggravated murder in the death of Westerville Police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.
Fred Squillante
Pool/Columbus Dispatch
Quentin Smith was found guilty of aggravated murder in the death of Westerville Police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.

A Franklin County judge has issued the final sentence for Quentin Smith: Two lifetimes in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 26.5 years.

Judge Richard Frye gave his ruling on Thursday, more than two weeks after a Franklin County jury gave their own recommendation. Frye ordered Smith to serve the prison sentences consecutively.

"No single prison sentence would adquately reflect the seriousness of his conduct," Frye said.

Earlier this month, Smith was found guilty of aggravated murder and other charges in the 2018 fatal shooting of two Westerville Police officers. Although prosecutors sought the death penalty, the jury deadlocked and opted for a lesser judgment of two lifetimes in prison.

"This jury spared your life, and you owe it to the rest of us to take that to heart," Frye told Smith at the hearing.

Smith shot officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli on Feb. 10, 2018, after they came to his Westerville home responding to a 911 hang-up call. Joering died on the scene, and Morelli died at a nearby hospital, while Smith was injured in the exchange.

The 911 call came from Smith’s estranged wife, Candace Smith, who prosecutors say had been strangled to the point that she lost consciousness. In addition to aggravated murder and murder charges, Smith was also found guilty of domestic violence.

Smith declined to speak Thursday. He also waived his right to testify in his own defense during the trial.

"The fact that he said nothing I think is probably a good thing, because it would not in my view have been appropriate or well received either," said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien.

In the sentencing phase, Smith’s defense painted a picture of his difficult upbringing and mental health issues. Prosecutors argued that Smith was solely responsible for the deaths of the officers and the circumstances that lead to the 911 call. The prosecutors also put Joering’s and Morelli’s families on the witness stand to give victim impact statements.

Although Smith sat silently throughout the entire trial and sentencing process, his attorney Diane Menashe says Smith was still impacted by the verdict.

"He's human, clearly," Menashe said. "I argued that, you know, throughout this trial, and so did Mr. Benton. And anyone who sits throughthis case, they can't help but feel emotion, and our client is no exception to that."

Smith's lawyers said Thursday they had offered the prosecution a deal for life in prison but prosecutors insisted on taking the case to trial.

O'Brien said prosecutors wanted the death penalty due to the severity of killing a law enforcement officer. But he says family members were ultimately satisfied with the results.

"The fact that the public will be safe and he'll die in prison accomplishes what both the family and we wanted to do in this case," O'Brien said.

Smith declined to appeal his sentence, which his lawyers say indicates he accepts his punishment.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.