A Near East Side man who killed his girlfriend in their home and confessed to a priest after fleeing to New York City has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.
John A. Smith, 48, pleaded guilty last month in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of Darlene A. Hart, 48.
Police said Smith killed her on July 14 by striking her in the head with a hatchet during an argument at 280 Parkwood Ave. Smith used gasoline to start a fire near the body in an effort to destroy evidence.
Nine days after the slaying, Smith walked into the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on W. 31st Street in midtown Manhattan and told a priest he had killed his girlfriend in Columbus.
A priest at the Catholic church and monastery told the New York Post, “He just grabbed a priest and said, ‘I want to tell you something.’??”
Smith wanted to turn himself in, not make a formal, sacramental confession, the unnamed priest told the newspaper.
A surveillance video at an E. Broad Street gas station captured images of Smith discarding a gasoline can shortly after the slaying, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Letson said.
Judge Kim Brown imposed the life sentence on March 13, adopting a recommendation from prosecution and defense attorneys.
By John Futty - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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