Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:12PM - 312 Views

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LIMA — Debra Henderson’s family turned to religion, themselves and memories to help them cope with her brutal murder.

On Tuesday, they turned to the man who killed her to express their anger and pain. Several even offered to forgive the man who killed her.

Hager Church pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery with repeat violent offender specifications. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in exchange for the prosecution taking the death penalty off the table.

Church, 26, was charged in the Aug. 16 beating death of Debra Henderson inside her home at 619 Woodward Ave. He robbed her of a few dollars and costume jewelry.

Church apologized to Henderson’s family calling what he did a “cowardly act.”

“I don’t understand what I did. I don’t understand why I did it,” he said. “She was probably one of the best friends I ever had in my life. I never had a friend.”

Church’s lead attorney, Bill Kluge, said perhaps Henderson’s own actions contributed to her death by being nice to him instead of stern.

“I often wonder if someone like Deb would have been more forceful … maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here today and maybe Deb would still be alive,” Kluge said.

Prosecutor Juergen Waldick was upset and appalled by Kluge placing any blame with the victim.

“I thought that was outrageous and offensive,” Waldick said after the hearing.

During the hearing, six of Henderson’s family members spoke of their pain and sorrow. Her son, Maxwell Henderson, said his mother took Church in when he didn’t have any other place to go. She even provided him with clothing trying to help him get back on his feet.

“This is how you repay her?” Maxwell Henderson said.

Henderson’s daughter, Maranda Taylor, said her life and her family’s lives never will be the same.

“Because of you, I cry every day. I cannot sleep at night. I’m always afraid. You took my security, my comfort. My smile is gone. You took my mom from me,” Taylor said. “I hope you die in prison.”

Henderson’s sister, Jane Glassey, showed various pictures including her sister alive and her sister’s swollen face in death at the funeral saying it was the last picture she has of her sister.

“That’s the last thing we have to look at. It doesn’t even look like her,” Glassey said.

Glassey showed a picture of family members standing around Henderson’s grave and told Church that’s the only way they could visit Henderson.

“This is where we have to go to talk to Debra anymore but she doesn’t answer,” Glassey said.

Waldick said prosecutors agreed to a deal to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Church serving the rest of his life in prison. He said the decision was approved by Henderson’s family and gives them some closure instead of endless appeals and ensures Church will never get out to harm someone again.

Judge Richard Warren said the chance for Henderson’s family to confront Church was a big step in the healing process. He also talked about the value of life.

“You extinguished the light of life. The most precious thing we have,” Warren said.

Kluge tried to offer some type of explanation that led to Church attacking Henderson with a hammer. He said Church’s father was not around for him as a child and the system never provided him with the proper help.

“The problem is no one ever got to the real issue,” Kluge said.

Kluge said Church was “institutionalized” referring to a phrase that means the only place he can function is inside a prison.

“For the rest of his life he will be told what to do, where to go and when to do it,” Kluge said.

Man gets life in prison without parole for slaying

Man gets life in prison without parole for slaying

Man gets life in prison without parole for slaying
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