Kevin Mathew Cleeves, 36, formerly of 601 W. Main St., pleaded guilty to the July 27, 2012, shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Brandi N. Killingsworth Cleeves, 25, in the driveway of her boyfriend’s home on Pa. 997. In the same incident, he shot and killed Brandi Cleeves’ boyfriend, Vincent Luke Santucci Jr., 28; and Santucci’s mother, Rosemary Holma, 55.
The three-hour sentencing hearing took place amid tight security, with a half dozen or more uniformed deputies in the courtroom at any one time. About two dozen members of the victims’ families were present.
“You took something from me I will never get back, my daughter Brandi,” her mother, Wanda Clark, said in court.
“I will never know if you are truly sorry or not ... but I know we will all stand in judgment for what we do,” Clark said.
Cleeves also was charged with kidnapping a minor, unlawful restraint of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and two counts of unlawful possession of a handgun. Those charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, but not before Common Pleas Court Judge Shawn Meyers asked him to acknowledge that his actions were consistent with those charges.
“I do accept that,” Cleeves replied.
He also apologized to the families of his victims.
“I know you hate me,” he said. “If I was in your position I would too. ... I know nothing can replace your loss."
The kidnapping charge was for abducting his then-4-year-old daughter, Leia Cleeves, from the scene of the shootings. The firearms counts are tied to a misdemeanor conviction in Arizona, according to court records.
After the shooting, Cleeves was apprehended in Ohio with Leia, who was the subject of a custody dispute between her parents in court.
Cleeves had pleaded not guilty in November 2012, and Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal said then that he intended to seek the death penalty.
Fogal said he consulted “extensively” with surviving relatives and Pennsylvania State Police before agreeing to the proposed sentences.
“I have considered many factors, not the least of which is the potential emotional trauma to be inflicted upon the innocent young girl who witnessed her mother’s murder, if she were to be called as a witness in a trial,” Fogal said in a news release earlier this week.
“In today’s society, we hear the word closure a lot,” Fogal said during the hearing. He told the court he did not believe the plea agreement would bring closure “nor will it necessarily bring healing” to the families.
“There’s the little girl involved in this case ... She saw three people murdered in front of her — one of them was her mother — by her father,” Fogal told the court.
The plea agreement did not sit well with many of the victims’ relatives.
“Cleeves shot my son eight times, is there any doubt what his intent was?” Vincent Santucci Sr., the father of Vincent Santucci Jr. and the former husband of Rosemary Holma, told the judge. The three victims were shot a total of 22 times, he said.
Santucci told the court that he had listened to a recording of the 911 cellphone call that his son made as the shooting took place. He said he could hear the victims screaming until the only voice left was that of Leia Cleeves.