September 16, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
52°F

35 to life for Shaun Cleland second time around

Shaun Cleland’s attorney Frank Gasper, left, speaks during Cleland’s sentencing hearing Thursday in Medina County Common Pleas court. Cleland, right, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

Shaun Cleland’s attorney Frank Gasper, left, speaks during Cleland’s sentencing hearing Thursday in Medina County Common Pleas court. Cleland, right, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison. (Photo by Allison Wood, The Gazette.)

MEDINA — Calling the death of David Heinricht an “inexplicable murder,” Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler sentenced Shaun Cleland to 35 years to life in prison Thursday.

This is the second sentence for Cleland, who in the fall of 2005 flew in from his Army base in Hawaii in order to kill his estranged wife’s boyfriend — 19-year-old Heinricht — in Brunswick.

In 2006, Kimbler sentenced Cleland to 28 years to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other counts. His pleas were overturned by the 9th District Court of Appeals last year, but a jury convicted him on all counts last month.

Kimbler said the longer sentence is justified because more information about the murder came out during Cleland’s two-week trial, including the extensive preparations Cleland made before killing Heinricht.

“This is the most inexplicable murder this court has ever seen,” Kimbler told Cleland, 28. “You did this for no purpose other than to satisfy your own desires.”

Cleland declined to speak before being sentenced. The victim’s family also declined to make a statement.

Cleland arrived in Ohio on Oct. 1, 2005, and tried to enter the Brunswick apartment Heinricht shared with Cleland’s estranged wife, Christina Eichelberger, that afternoon on the premise he needed to pick up a tattoo kit he had ordered. A Brunswick police officer ordered him to leave.

Later that evening, after spending several hours at the Brunswick bar where Eichelberger worked, Cleland broke into the apartment by climbing up onto the roof, dropping down onto a balcony and entering through a sliding-glass door.

After Heinricht arrived home from work at around 11:40 p.m., Cleland strangled him to death and then placed a rope around his neck to make it appear as if Heinricht had killed himself.

Eichelberger discovered Heinricht’s body about an hour later and testified she immediately suspected Cleland due to the military-style knots used to tie the noose.

Cleland then drove to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where he sent several text messages to a woman he was dating as he was waiting for his flight back to Hawaii. Cleveland police arrested him before he could board his flight.

After his arrest, Cleland confessed to killing Heinricht several times to Brunswick police, but changed his story several months later. He testified during his trial that a “masked man” kidnapped him the evening of the murder and said harm would come to Cleland’s young niece if he did not cooperate.

While Cleland testified he was in the apartment at the time of Heinricht’s death, he testified that his kidnapper strangled Heinricht and demonstrated to the jury how the masked man did it.

The jury found Cleland guilty on three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, one count of aggravated burglary and one count of kidnapping.

Contact Allison Wood at (330) 721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.