BATAVIA, Ohio — The Clermont County sheriff says he thinks someone who kills a police officer should get the death penalty. But Sheriff Robert Leahy reluctantly said the decision to give a plea deal to a man who killed his deputy was “the best choice.”
Describing the process that keeps a man on death row for decades as “flawed” and "unfair" to victims' loved ones, Leahy said the plea deal that will keep Wade Winn from a possible death sentence will at least spare Det. Bill Brewer’s family and Brewer’s law enforcement brethren the pain of sitting through a trial and years of appeals.
WATCH the six-minute news conference below:
"I feel that if you kill a police officer you should get the death penalty. However, this process is flawed,” Leahy said after Winn changed his plea to guilty Monday to save himself and prosecutors dropped the possibility of death row for the 23-year-old.
In the plea deal, Winn was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated murder and another 115 years in prison — to be served consecutively — on 12 counts of attempted aggravated murder. Besides fatally shooting Brewer, Winn also wounded Lt. Nick DeRose and fired on five other deputies during a 12-hour standoff at his apartment complex last February.
Leahy spoke at an emotional news conference attended by Brewer’s wife Jamie and Clermont County Prosecutor Vince Faris, who broke into tears talking about the case.
Brewer’s wife declined the opportunity to speak, but Brewer’s mother, talking to WCPO by phone, said she was disappointed that Winn would live after taking her son’s life.
Two days after the shootings on Feb. 2, Clermont County Chief Criminal Prosecutor Darren Miller announcedthat the state intended to seek the death penalty for Winn. Neither Faris nor Miller spoke at Monday’s news conference about why that changed.
Leahy said keeping death row inmates alive for decades is "unfair" to victims' families.
“Those convicted stay alive for decades pending appeal after appeal while victims’ families stay in a state of limbo with no healing or direction. How unfair is that?” the sheriff said.
"To spare Bill’s family and my office the pain and suffering of sitting through a graphic trial and years of appeals that would certainly come, I feel this was the best choice,” Leahy said.
Leahy said the plea deal would help his department start healing.
“It takes us out of limbo land. We have a direction now. I think it will be helpful for the entire office, for all law enforcement in the community,” Leahy said.
Faris paused through his tears.
“It’s been very difficult obviously for all of us,” the prosecutor said. “All of us are friends with these officers.”
RELATED: Read more about the plea deal and Monday's hearing.