FORT WAYNE, Ind. – An Indiana man who admitted to fatally bludgeoning and dismembering a 9-year-old girl he was baby-sitting just days before Christmas was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
Michael Plumadore last month pleaded guilty to murder, abuse of a corpse and removing a dead body from the scene in the Dec. 22 death of Aliahna Maroney-Lemmon. Prosecutors had considered the death penalty but agreed to life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for the guilty plea.
Calling the case the "worst of the worst," Allen Superior Court Judge Allen Surbeck accepted that plea deal Monday and added an extra 36 years: three more years for abuse of a corpse; three years for moving her body; and 30 years for the murder charge because Plumadore is a habitual offender.
Plumadore, who wore shackles and an orange-and-tan striped jumpsuit, expressed remorse for the girl's death during the hearing.
"I am sorry for the pain and sorrow I caused so many people. ... I'm truly sorry for the crime I committed and the pain I caused," Plumadore said. "No one should be exposed to the things I have done."
Plumadore met Aliahna after her mother, Tarah Souders, moved her three daughters to the rundown trailer park where he lived to help take care of her dying father. The park, which holds about two dozen homes, was teeming with convicted sex offenders, and neighbors say Souders asked her father if any of them — including Plumadore — could be a threat to her children.
Her father assured her the children would be safe.
The day Aliahna died, Plumadore was looking after the third-grader and her 6-year-old sisters at his mobile home because Souders was ill.
At last month's hearing, Plumadore told the judge he killed Aliahna by repeatedly striking her in the head with a brick. He said he then he cut her body up with a hacksaw.
"I put parts in my freezer and took the rest down to the Marathon station and put them in a Dumpster," he said.
Police found the girl's head, hands and feet in the freezer at the mobile home where Plumadore had lived with Aliahna's grandfather, who had died about three weeks earlier. The other remains were thrown into trash bags and discarded at a gas station.
The other girls weren't harmed.
Aliahna's death drew scrutiny to her mother's decision to move to the trailer park and leave the girl in Plumadore's care.
Elizabeth Sepponen, a spokeswoman for the family, told Plumadore at the hearing that the family suffered not just the pain of the murder, but the judgment of the community.
"My cousin Tarah will forever be judged," she said. "You have put a rift in Fort Wayne that I hope someday can be healed."
Surbeck said the death penalty would have been justified because of the dismemberment and the victim's age, as well as Plumadore's criminal history. Since 1992, Plumadore has criminal records in Florida and North Carolina, including convictions for trespassing and assault, and an Indiana conviction for forgery.
"Any time you have a case where your client could face the death penalty, the goal is to save his life," said Plumadore's attorney, Anthony Churchward.
Prosecutor Karen Richards said Aliahna's family asked her not to seek the death penalty. She said she thought they needed finality.
"I can't think of a more horrific crime I've seen involving a more innocent victim. I think it transcends our entire community," she said.