Judge postpones sentence for Hempel’s killer – He buried girlfriend’s father in the backyard

July 13, 2018

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

James Bryan Kuhns, 36, of Farwell, who pled guilty in June to the murder of Leonard Hemple in April of 2017 was back in court this week, but now will have to wait while the Judge Thomas Evans determines if he will be sentenced for first degree or second degree murder.

Kuhns plead guilty to homicide open murder, but whether it would be ruled first or second degree murder was to be determined in a penalty hearing Tuesday when the Judge listened to testimony on the case.

James Kuhns

James Kuhns

Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis said in a Facebook post Tuesday, “He will not be back in court tomorrow. We concluded the hearing today. We presented testimony from Clare County Sheriff’s Deputy Feger and Sgt. Miller, Dr. Bechenski, co-defendant Angela Hempel, and another witness.”

She continued, “Judge Evans took the matter under advisement in order to review the evidence presented today. He will either issue a written opinion or will provide his opinion orally on the record at a later date.”

Kuhns and his girlfriend Angela Hempel, 33 of Farwell, were arraigned and Kuhns charged with open murder on May 3, 2016 following the discovery of Leonard Hempel’s body buried behind the Surrey Township home May 1st.

Angela Hempel was also charged with open murder as well as lying to a peace officer. She was sentenced to one year in August based on a plea bargain with her agreement to testify against Kuhns.

Leonard Hempel was reported missing April 26, 2016, but had not been seen since April 9th. Family and friends searching for him discovered a “disturbed” area in the garden behind his home on South Road and Stonehenge Drive in Surrey Township on May 1st. A nephew began digging and found clothing they believed belonged to Hempel. They immediately notified police who were called to the scene.

Evidence given Tuesday by Forensic Pathologist Dr. John Bechinski on Hempel’s body listed multiple wounds to his head. “There were right chop wounds that were present, one was on the right forehead, one was on the right cheek, there were two on the right ear and then three on the right temporal parietal scalp, which is the right side of the head and the back portion of the right side of the head, and then one on the posterior right parietal scalp, which on the back right portion of the head,”

It could be several weeks before Judge Evans makes the sentencing determination.

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