By Cathy Taylor
Blake Hullihen stood mute as he listened to 49th Circuit Court Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy sentence him to 37 to 75 years in prison for the deaths of Gabrielle Woodworth and Donald Feneis.
Hullihen, 27, of Harrison, was found guilty in February of two counts of second degree murder in the December 2011 shooting deaths of Woodworth and Feneis. The shootings occurred outside of Chuck’s Corners Citgo station located at the intersection of M-66 and m-115, just south of the village of Marion. Hullihen and his victims used this location as the site of custodial exchange for their young daughter.
Hullihen and Woodworth had been embroiled in a volatile custody battle over their 6-year-old daughter. Hullihen had recently lost custody and claimed to be despondent over the fact.
At what was supposed to be a custody exchange that evening, Hullihen instead arrived at the scene without his daughter. An argument ensued and resulted with Hullihen shooting Woodworth and Feneis a total of 17 times while Woodworth’s two other daughters watched from their vehicle parked at the scene.
Members of the families of both Woodworth and Feneis were in the courtroom as the sentence was handed down. Several seized the opportunity to tell Hullihen what a profound impact his actions had upon their families.
Rebecca Gruno, mother of Gabrielle Woodworth, faced Hullihen as she tightly grasped a photo of her daughter.
“You took more than the lives of two human beings who were wanted, needed and loved by many family members,” Gruno began. “You stole more than their breath and the beat of their hearts. You left vacant seats at the family table and silenced the laughter we shared with them.”
Gruno continued, “There is a little girl who can’t understand why you would choose to take her mother and father away. The youngest kisses this picture goodnight every night. I say she is lucky to be able to sleep, because (her sister) wakes up every night with night terrors……..scared of the man in the dark who took her mother away.”
Andrew Woodworth, Gabrielle’s brother, stood beside his mother as he told Hullihen, “This crime was so bad that I couldn’t see my sister at her funeral. We had a closed casket, and this was disgusting. I hope the justice system will prevail with the sentence.”
Feneis’ father, Donald Feneis Sr., directed stern words of criticism at Hullihen, telling him he was an unfit parent and a terrible father.
“What you’ve done to my family is unforgiving. You knew what you were going to do to them the night you met them there. You didn’t do your job as a father. You are not a father. You are a disgusting piece of dirt. You have taken two good people out of society. You left three young children with nothing.”
State’s Prosecutor Andy DePres , addressed the court, “The ripple effect as far as the victim impact of Mr. Hullihen’s actions range far beyond anything presented in this courtroom. I don’t think the court would be out of line for going above the sentencing guidelines in this case.”
Hullihen and his attorney, Dennis Duvall, asked the judge for the maximum sentence allowable for the crime of second degree murder—life in prison with the chance for parole. This option would give Hullihen the opportunity to appear before a parole board for early release in as little as 15 years.
According to the State of Michigan sentencing guidelines, Hullihen could have received either life in prison with a chance of parole or a sentence of 18 to 31 years in prison for the crimes he had committed. Depending upon special circumstances relating to the crimes, the judge retains the authority to increase or decrease the time served within certain limitations.
Judge Hill-Kennedy denied Hullihen’s request for life in prison, as the chance of an early exit from prison would be unacceptable for the crimes committed.
After citing the number of times each victim was shot by Hullihen, Judge Hill-Kennedy concluded, “The crimes you have committed are as serious as something can possibly be in the criminal world. Therefore I would not be out of line to increase the sentence to 37 to 75 years in prison.”
Hullihen was given credit for the 449 days already served in county lock up. He will now begin serving a two year sentence for felony firearms charges relating to the death of Gabrielle Woodworth, followed by another two year sentence for felony firearms charges relating to the death of Donald Feneis. He will begin serving his murder sentence at the completion of the firearms charges.
Hullihen was also ordered to pay additional costs incurred as the result of his crimes in the amounts of $3997.00 to the State of Michigan Dept. of Community Health, $425.00 to Rebecca Gruno and $1936.36 to the Osceola County Prosecutor’s Office.