A Holt man who killed his stepdaughter because she interrupted his nap and asked for something to eat was sentenced this morning to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Thomas McClellan, 25, was found guilty in July of first-degree felony murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree arson in connection with the death of Luna Younger.
Michigan law requires a mandatory life sentence for the murder conviction.
At a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court, Judge Joyce Draganchuk sentenced McClellan to serve between about 18 and 30 years on each of the other two charges. The three sentences will be served concurrently.
"Tom, I forgive you and I pray for you," said Paula McKay, who spoke on behalf of Luna's family. "And I desire peace and hope for you.
"There exists a sadness like none we have ever known," she continued. "A sadness at the loss of so many hopes and dreams. Hopes for the future of you and Victoria. Hope for the future of a little girl — our lovely Luna. Hope for two mothers who saw their children happy and content in a new marriage. Hope for two families who had come together on a day not so far away in the past."
"This was a wicked act by a man but he's not a wicked man," said Patrick Crowley, McClellan's attorney. "I can't say enough how unfortunate this is for multiple families."
When Draganchuk offered McClellan a chance to speak he declined.
On Nov. 1, 2016, McClellan stabbed Luna at least five times while his wife Victoria King — the child's mother — was at work.
In a taped confession aired during the trial, McClellan said he killed the girl because she interrupted his nap and asked for something to eat.
He later piled blankets and paper towels on her body, then doused the pile in vodka and set it on fire.
"I understand how people sometimes who are not evil do evil things," Draganchuk said before sentencing McClellan. "I think everyone sort of sees that as the picture that took place here. The tragedy is just unspeakable and the pain on all sides.
"I think the whole community, beyond just the affected families, the whole community is asking 'why, why?' And the answer is, we need to leave 'why' behind because there is no 'why,' and it will only torture everyone trying to understand why.
"Because what reason would possibly justify this, where we would say, 'oh that's an explanation of why?' There is none. There is none, and we will only hurt ourselves by dwelling on the 'why.'"
King, Luna's mother, was present for much of the trial but did not attend the sentencing. Other family members declined to comment after the hearing.
Contact Christopher Haxel at 517-377-1261 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.