A religious cult member convicted of helping to kill a family of five was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole.
A Lucas County Common Pleas jury recommended the five life sentences for Ronald Luff after three days of deliberations.Luff, 30, showed no emotion as the verdict was read by visiting Judge Martin Parks of Lake County Common Pleas Court. But Luff's lawyer, J. Ross Haffey, clenched his fists and let out a sigh of relief.
The jury had the option of recommending the death penalty or sentences of 30 years to life or 20 years to life on each count.
"I'm delighted he didn't get the death penalty," Haffey said. "Whether he got 20 to 30 years didn't make a lot of sense because we're going straight to the appellate court."
Luff's case was the last murder trial stemming from the slayings of the Dennis Avery family in Kirtland on April 17, 1989. Jurors convicted Luff of five counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping Dec. 20.
Avery, his wife, Cheryl, and their three daughters were shot in a barn on the northeast Ohio farm where the cult lived. Authorities found the bodies buried in the barn last January.
Luff's trial was moved to Toledo because of pretrial publicity.
Luff pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. His lawyers said he was so influenced by cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren that he temporarily lost his mind. Lundgren, who killed the family, was convicted last August and sentenced to death.
Lake County Prosecutor Steven LaTourette said he didn't believe Luff felt remorse for the deaths. He said Luff was second in command to Lundgren and played a key role in the slayings.
Luff was assigned to bring the family members into the barn one at a time, then bury their bodies after they had been killed.
"I'm disappointed. I thought that at least the murders of the girls would justify the death penalty," LaTourette said. "But he will certainly die at the hands of the state in the penal system."