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Man gets 25 years in brother's slaying

January 20, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

A Halfway man was sentenced on Friday to 25 years in prison for the shooting death of his brother last year.

After hearing testimony about how the brothers had abused drugs together almost daily for a period of months, Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley told the defendant, Charles Lee Leatherman, 33, that drugs led to the destruction of his family.

"You and your brother embarked on a lifestyle that could lead to nothing but tragedy," Beachley said. "Bottom line, someone was going to end up dead and someone was going to prison."

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Leatherman pleaded guilty in November to one count of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his brother, Ian Leatherman, 22, May 15 in their Halfway home. Ian Leatherman had been shot five times. Washington County Sheriff's deputies found a Remington .270-caliber rifle, live rounds and spent casings in the home.

At his sentencing Friday, Charles Leatherman testified that his brother had been an addict for a long time, and that in October 2001 he had started using drugs with Ian. Leatherman said he developed an addiction to cocaine, heroin and other drugs that eventually cost $1,500 to $2,000 a day.

"I tried it and enjoyed it," he said. "It was a big mistake."

Leatherman said he had inherited $600,000 to $700,000 after the death of his father. The inheritance included the home at 11226 Marbern Road in Halfway, a Pennsylvania property and $390,000 in cash and stocks that he began collecting in August 2001.

By the time of the shooting, Leatherman said the only asset left was the house.

On the day of the shooting, the brothers argued over food, drugs and money, with Ian Leatherman threatening Charles with the loaded gun. Citing a videotape from a home security system taken on the day of the shooting, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Steve Kessell said "clearly Ian was in an agitated state. But Charles remains in control."

Charles had even wrestled the weapon away from his brother, Kessell said.

Acknowledging that there had been trouble between the brothers for some time - and that the Sheriff's Department had been summoned to the home on several occasions before the shooting - Kessell said Charles Leatherman "chose to end it by picking up the gun and unloading five shots into his brother.

"There was plenty of time between shots for Charles to put the gun down," Kessell said. "He chose not to."

He asked Beachley to sentence Leatherman to 30 years in prison, the maximum allowed for second degree murder.

Defense attorneys Mary Riley and Michael Morrissette argued that Leatherman's judgment had been impaired by drug abuse and by a mental disorder that had also afflicted Ian Leatherman and their father. The day of the shooting, Riley said, "was a typical day for them except that they were out of money - so it was the end of the line. And it was the first time Ian had pointed a gun at Charles."

"The question is not whether (Charles Leatherman) should be punished but the degree to which he should be punished," Morrissette said. "These events were precipitated by the victim pointing a loaded gun at the defendant."

Kessell said he was satisfied with the sentence although it was not the maximum he had asked for.

"We asked for the maximum, but realistically we didn't expect 30 years," he said.

Leatherman will get credit for the time he has served since his arrest.

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