Convicted murderer Joseph McAlpin was sentenced to death on Tuesday, more than two years after the murders of Mike Kuznik and Trina Tomola Kuznik at a Cleveland car dealership.
Emotions throughout the community have been running high ever since the Kuzniks' deaths. Members of their family chose not to address the court at Tuesday's sentencing hearing, instead issuing a statement thanking authorities for their efforts in seeking justice.
One man who did address the court, however, was Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek, whose eighth ward represents the Collinwood area where the "Mr. Cars" dealership is located. Polensek spoke about knowing the Kuzniks for almost 40 years, and about being at the store as Mike and Trina and their dog were carried out in body bags.
"[McAlpin] is a demonic killer," Polensek said passionately. "He and his cohorts...are predators. They pray upon our communities, upon our businesses, upon our citizens, as we try to stabilize and rebuild our neighborhoods and our city."
Polensek added that the murders were devastating not just to the Kuznik family, but to the community as well, as Mr. Cars is now closed and other businesses have apparently been "apprehensive" about investing in Collinwood. In Polensek's words, "the businesses didn't know who was going to be next."
"We're not going to let him and the other two parasites that were with him destroy our neighborhood," he added. "We're going to rise above it, not only in this community but across the entire city. That's the message we're looking for the court to send today."
Two other people were charged with McAlpin in connection with the crimes: 25-year-old Andrew Keener pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in February, while 24-year-old Jerome Diggs still faces multiple charges including aggravated murder.
Polensek says this case "was never about vengeance, it's been about justice."
"We want and deserve justice, on behalf of Mike and Trina, and Axel [the dog], and...the greater community."
Following the sentence, Polensek addressed the media outside the courtroom and said McAlpin "got what he deserved." In addition, he stated his belief that the "lethal injection is too good for him," and that McAlpin "should be burned at the stake."
In addition to the death penalty for both murders, Judge Brian Corrigan also sentenced McAlpin to 63 years in prison for lesser crimes. McAlpin has already made public his plans to appeal.