Man’s killer sentenced to 20 to 40 years

A stone-faced William J. Kemp was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in state prison Wednesday for third-degree criminal homicide.

Kemp killed Thomas A. Schmitt on Feb. 3, 2012, by shooting him point-blank in the neck and head.

While defense claimed the slaying was done in self-defense, the jury convicted Kemp of third-degree criminal homicide, aggravated assault, possessing the instrument of a crime and recklessly endangering another person.

Kemp claimed he was remorseful and accepted responsibility but said the killing was justified because he felt threatened.

Kemp had several individuals testify on his behalf at sentencing, including an aunt, a prison chaplain and a prior employer. All said Kemp had changed since becoming incarcerated, even helping other prisoners with Bible study. They asked Kemp be given a low-end sentence of 7 1/2 years.

“I’m inclined to believe that he has changed somewhat but I question the sincerity of that change,” Judge Marc F. Lovecchio said during sentencing.

The commonwealth, through District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt, strongly disputed the defendant’s claims, alleging that he had not accepted responsibility for his actions but rather blamed everyone but himself. He also showed no remorse in his statements to the victim’s family by writing an apology that essentially was contrived, according to Linhardt.

The commonwealth referenced Kemp’s prior criminal acts that did not come out at trial, including a domestic dispute with his estranged wife and an incident in a city grocery store where he pulled a knife on someone. The commonwealth argued that the facts demonstrated Kemp’s character and that he deserved the maximum penalty of about 23 years.

The court reviewed the relevant sentencing factors, including the circumstances of the offense, Kemp’s history and characteristics and the sentencing guidelines. After observing the defendant, the court concluded Kemp appeared to be two different individuals, hiding his problems and temper.

“He demonstrated an extreme indifference to the value of human life and he continued to demonstrate that during and after the trial. I do not see any remorse or acceptance of responsibility. I still see a man who blames everyone else,” Lovecchio said.

After considering all the factors, including the impact on the community and the protection of the public, Lovecchio imposed a 20- to 40-year state prison sentence on Kemp.

“This was a horrible and tragic event that … should have never happened,” Lovecchio said.