Thursday, June 24, 2010

Long Island man sentenced to 18 to life for wife's murder

A 31 year old Long Island, NY man who killed his wife by strangling her then pretended to look for her was sentenced to 18 years to life yesterday, June 23, with the presiding judge and prosecutor angling for the life sentence. Judge David Ayres said that the man, a "cold blooded murderer," should never get out of prison and that he recommended to the parole board that the killer never be released.

After an argument over his cheating, William Walsh strangled his wife, Leah Hirschel Walsh, in their Bethpage, NY apartment, early on October 26, 2008. After covering her body up with black trash bags, William went to the gym, laundromat, and McDonalds. When he returned home at 10 that night, he stuffed her body in the bags and drove her car to a wooded area off of the Long Island Expressway, and dumped her body there. He left her car on another expressway to make the murder look like a carjacking.

For two days, Walsh made impassioned public pleas for information on his wife’s whereabouts that were covered extensively by the local media. In several of his appearances, he stood with his in-laws in front of their Rockville Centre home. Police arrested him on Oct. 29, when his wife’s body was found. Walsh later confessed to her murder, and police said he gave them a written seven-page confession.

On May 20, Walsh plead guilty to 2nd degree murder, criminal posession of a weapon, and tampering with evidence.

In his victim’s impact statement, Howard Hirschel spoke of how hundreds of special-needs students would be deprived of his daughter's special gifts as a teacher. He spoke of the pain and anguish her family has suffered and said that Leah’s violent, brutal death and ultimate betrayal gave new meaning to the phrase "till death do us part.” Calling her murder cruel, cold and premeditated, Leah’s father said that Walsh had no sense of remorse. "His sole purpose was to save his own skin,” he said.

A statement from Leah's mother, read by Assistant District Attorney Michael Walsh, and one from her brother followed. In his statement, Josh Hirschel said that Walsh ran up debt in his sister’s name, and that when she had had enough of his drugs, gambling and infidelity, he decided to end her life. “The plea agreement is for 18 years to life,” he said, “and the emphasis should be on ‘life.’”

As for the defendant, his lawyer William Petrillo, of Rockville Centre said that contrary to reports, his client had shown emotion, and that the murder was not premeditated. Describing his client as sincere, he cited a probation report saying his client prays for his victim's family and will never find peace. William Walsh spoke, saying he was sorry for the pain he caused his wife's family.

Judge Ayres contrasted Walsh, who he considered to be a narcissistic and controlling killer, with the victim and her family. He acknowledged letters saying that Leah was a special education teacher with much more to give. But for Walsh, Judge Ayres offered only denunciation, saying that "The physical violence you showed Leah,” Ayres said, “was echoed only by the cowardice you showed."

After the sentencing, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that “The fact that Walsh cruelly tortured the victim’s family in the days following her brutal murder with his deceitful lies just shows what a cold and merciless killer he is.”

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