OTTAWA — The aggravated murder trial of Michael Luebrecht ended with a guilty verdict Friday at the Putnam County Court of Common Pleas with Judge Randall Basinger presiding.
Luebrecht pleaded guilty to the aggravated murder charge after killing his 13-month-old son, Joel, in 2006. He served 12 years of a life sentence before Basinger granted a motion for him to retract and change his plea to not guilty. Luebrecht was granted a jury trial to present a defense of involuntary intoxication from antidepressant medication.
Day four of the Luebrecht trial began with closing statements Friday morning. Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers and defense attorney Danny Hill passionately summarized their cases before the jury.
Lammers reiterated, as he did in opening arguments, Luebrecht killed his son on May 23, 2005. That fact wasn’t in dispute. What was in dispute is if Luebrecht made a conscious decision to do so or if his anti-depression medications altered his mind, pushing him to commit the act.
“On that day, the defendant decided to kill his son,” Lammers said.
Lammers said Luebrecht lied twice on May 23, 2005, in order to achieve his goal of murdering his son; first when he told babysitter Karen Leursman he was picking Joel up for a doctor visit. He lied a second time that day to cover up his crime when, according to neighbor Jeff Dickman’s testimony, Luebrecht told him Joel fell into the bathtub.
Luebrecht showed no signs of intoxication in his planning and execution of the murder or when he was talking to multiple sheriff’s deputies when they arrived at the scene, Lammers said. His thoughts were clear enough to execute a plan, filling the bathtub before picking Joel up, and packing an escape bag of clothing and toiletries which disproves the defense’s assertion Luebrecht was intoxicated while committing the crime, Lammers said.
During his expert testimony Thursday Dr. Douglas Beech said the medical community recognizes intoxication by substances like alcohol, caffeine and other such substances. The medical community does not recognize involuntary intoxication by antidepressant medication as a legitimate medical condition.
During his closing, Hill reminded the jury of Dr. Paul Breggin’s testimony when he said an individual having a psychotic episode can still plan, lie and appear calm but that doesn’t mean they are themselves at the time. Breggin testified he was certain Luebrecht was having a psychotic episode while killing Joel, brought on by involuntary intoxication by antidepressant medication.
Hill also reminded the jury of the warning labels that are now on antidepressant medication stating one of the side effects is homicidal ideation. These warnings were not on the medications Luebrecht was on for the six months leading up to the murder. The psychiatrists he was seeing at the time didn’t tell Luebrecht or his wife about those side effects.
Hill reiterated that Luebrecht wasn’t a violent murderer but a victim of irresponsible physicians who didn’t warn him about the severe side effects of the medications they prescribed. He stressed the entire family was a victim of irresponsible care because none of the psychiatrists Luebrecht told about his thoughts of murder or warned Amy Luebrecht, his wife, or the authorities, as they were required to.
Unfortunately for the Luebrecht family, who remained steadfast in their belief the man who killed Joel Luebrecht wasn’t the same man they know and love, the jury didn’t accept the defense of involuntary intoxication as an explanation as to why a father would murder his young son.
Luebrecht will be sentenced at 2 p.m. Monday at the Putnam County Court of Common Pleas. Basinger didn’t give any indication as to what the sentence might be.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362