Barbara Howe’s family to killer: ‘Rot in hell’

French was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 11 years, by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater. This upholds the same sentence recommended by a jury who also considered the death penalty.

Pointing at French and raising her voice, Donna Wesselman, Howe’s youngest of three daughters, said, “you beat her and stripped her of her dignity. You stuffed her inside a crawl space and you almost took her head off.”

Wesselman faced French at the front of the courtroom and said she was angry he will have a warm bed and medical care in prison.

“You will still get to see your family every single holiday. I will never see my mother again,” she said. “It is so hurtful, because she loved living and you robbed her and us of many years. I will never forgive you and you better rot in hell.”

Barbara Laspina, Howe’s middle daughter and namesake, was brief in her statement to French.

“Those prisoners are going to kill you,” Laspina said.

French did shift his eyes to look at the women a few times during their statements, but showed no emotion.

He answered, “no sir,” when asked by Pater if he wanted to say anything before his sentence was imposed.

French entered Howe’s Mount Pleasant Retirement Community home using the ruse of repairing her medical alarm system and shocked her with a stun gun. But when she didn’t go down, he choked her, then slit her throat with a double-edged knife. She bled to death after French stuffed her in a crawl space below her house.

Before handing down the sentence, Pater said French’s actions were “horrible, horrific, savage, brutal, inexcusable.”

But, the judge noted, “it is extraordinary in our day and age for anyone to receive the death penalty.”

In addition to the life terms, French was sentenced to 11 years in prison for aggravated robbery and concurrent lesser sentences for tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

After killing Howe on Oct. 28, 2012, French 57, who grew up in Middletown but was living in Kentucky when arrested, put Howe’s body in the trunk of her red Cadillac and drove it to a Middletown apartment complex. To cover up DNA and the crime, French poured cleaning supplies and vacuum clean debris on Howe’s body before walking to Walmart and calling a cab.

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