MICHIGAN CITY — For the fatal shooting of his wife in 2012, John B. Larkin was sentenced Monday to two years in prison.
But the almost-7-year-old manslaughter case isn’t over – the judge allowed Larkin to remain free on an appeal bond of $20,000 cash or surety, and remain home with his four children while the Indiana Court of Appeals determines whether the jury’s Sept. 13 conviction should stand.
“There have been so many problems in this case not caused by the defendant,” said special Judge Roger Bradford, referring to the repeated incidents of police and prosecutorial misconduct uncovered throughout the investigation. “… It’s been such a mess; it’s been such a stain on our entire system.”
Bradford said that in this particular case, the mitigating circumstances “far outweigh” the aggravating circumstances. And for that reason, he settled on a sentence of half the advisory four years.
Defense attorney Stacy Uliana asked that the entirety of Larkin’s sentence be served on probation.
“Some people who have taken human life don’t deserve prison,” she said.
Special prosecutor Stan Levco requested time executed in prison, stating, “He took a human life. He deserves a jail sentence.”
The judge ultimately sided with Levco.
“I believe in making people responsible for their own actions,” Bradford said.
Prior to sentence pronouncement, each of Larkin’s four children read a letter he or she had written to the court. All expressed love for their mother despite her mental illness and substance abuse; and all elaborated on their love and admiration for their father, both before and since their mother’s death.
The family’s group counselor, Toni Henke-Wheeler, testified that she believes a probationary sentence would be in the best interest of the Larkins’ children, who need their father home to provide guidance, emotional stability and further healing.
“Sometimes tragic accidents happen … and assigning blame is sometimes not helpful,” she said.
When it was his turn to address the court, Larkin said he’d do things differently if he could go back to Dec. 11, 2012 – the day his wife died of two gunshot wounds to the torso.
Larkin said neither he nor his wife woke up that day expecting it to end in tragedy, and that his intention was not to shoot her but to keep the gun away from her, as she’d had suicidal tendencies.
“I love Stacey and I miss her, your honor. Keep my family together,” he pleaded.
After the two-year sentence was handed down, Larkin said, “It’s a very tragic day, and my heart goes out to everyone involved.”
Uliana said, “Although we’re disappointed that he got any executed time, we are thankful that the judge stayed the sentence so we could appeal. That shows that there’s a real chance that we could win this on appeal, and Judge Bradford just wants to be fair.”
Prior to arguing the case Monday, Levco indicated that Larkin had filed a complaint against him with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission since the jury trial had ended in September. But he said that would not affect his ability to proceed fairly.
Levco did not indicate the specific grievance. However, Larkin’s attorneys filed a motion earlier this year that alleges Levco intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and the court – specifically, the fact that the gun involved in Stacey Renee Simon Larkin’s death was recalled in 2015 for firing when dropped and when the safety is activated.
Further, they showed during trial that this information was pertinent to the Larkin case, as the defense-hired gun expert provided video evidence of the Larkins’ gun firing when dropped on two separate occasions out of about two dozen drops.
Larkin has 30 days to file his appeal, and to post his $20,000 bond. Should he be unable to post bond in that time, he will be obligated to turn himself in to begin serving his prison sentence while his case moves through appellate court.
Uliana indicated that although her client would be able to post the bond, she anticipates he may experience a financial hardship in the coming year; as his felony conviction means he will lose his real estate license and, possibly, his insurance broker license.