MARTINSVILLE -- John R. Myers II received 65 years in prison Friday, the maximum sentence, for the 2000 murder of IU sophomore Jill Behrman.
His ankles and wrists chained, Myers remained emotionless during the all-day sentencing, even when Jill Behrman's parents Marilyn and Eric Behrman took the stand to read personal statements to the court.
"Every single day, many times each day, I am forced to think about the fact that my daughter Jill was brutally murdered, execution-style, in a remote, overgrown area in rural Morgan County," said Marilyn Behrman, her voice strong as she read aloud her written statement. "My strong, beautiful, responsible, intelligent daughter Jill was unable to defend herself against Mr. Myers that day."
Jill Behrman vanished during a morning bike ride May 31, 2000. Her bicycle was found two days later in a cornfield outside Ellettsville, less than a mile from the trailer where Myers was living at the time. Hunters found her skeletal remains in March 2003 near Paragon, Ind. Forensic evidence showed Jill Behrman was shot in the back of the head at close range with a shotgun.
Eric Behrman's voice was thick with emotion as he read his statement, bringing tears to the eyes of people throughout the courtroom, including Myers' 11- and 13-year-old daughters, who were present, and several jury members.
"I had the right to watch my daughter grow up, to see her mature, graduate from college and begin her career," he said. "I do not think that John Myers is man enough to admit to the responsibility for Jill's murder here in court. Real men accept responsibility for their actions -- no matter how bad they might be."
By late afternoon, Judge Christopher Burnham had made his decision. He said in court that aggravating factors, such as the fact that forensic evidence suggests Jill Behrman was stripped naked and forced to lie facedown outside in the woods before being shot through the back of head, consequently disfiguring her face, led him to impose the maximum sentence of 65 years. In addition, Burnham found that Myers' criminal record, which included violence against his mother, father and brothers Luke and Sam, showed he had a history of criminal and delinquent activity.
"The crime committed by the defendant in this case was particularly cruel and cold-blooded," Burnham said, adding that Jill Behrman was forced to "suffer the mental horror of wondering what was going to happen to her up until the moment that the defendant pulled the trigger of the shotgun, exploding her skull and taking her life."
Defense attorney Hugh Baker tried to prove there were mitigating factors that were reasons for a reduced sentence, such as the "undue hardship" Myers and his daughters would endure from being separated. The court rejected these on the basis that Myers' older daughter had been adopted by her grandparents in 2000 and, at one point, Myers had planned on leaving his younger daughter in the care of another relative so he could move out of Indiana.
Myers' mother, Jodie Myers, remained still as the sentence was read, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. She began rubbing her son Luke's arm, holding his hand and clutching a tissue in her other hand. Earlier that day, speaking with her son's attorneys in the hallway, she had told them: "God's in control." After the sentencing, as John R. Myers II was led out of the courtroom, she called out: "I love you, John. I love you."
The sentencing began at 9 a.m. but was delayed when the defense argued that not all of the copies of the lead investigator's notes had been handed over to the defense during discovery.
Detective Rick Lang was sent back to his office in Martinsville to retrieve the hand-written notes.
Outside of court, Patrick Baker said the defense plans to file for an appeal. The defense has 30 days to file. He said allegations of "jury misconduct" that came from a transcript of jurors' interviews, in which some jury members likened evening conduct to a "fraternity party," will be an issue in the appeal process.
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