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State v. Iannarelli

December 17, 2008



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Konenkamp, Justice


[¶1.] Michael Iannarelli pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first degree manslaughter and second degree rape. He was sentenced to 130 years for manslaughter and 45 years for rape, the sentences to run consecutively. On appeal, Iannarelli contends that his sentences were grossly disproportionate to the crimes committed. We affirm because the sentences were not grossly disproportionate to the offenses committed.


[¶2.] In the early morning hours of February 15, 2007, Michael Iannarelli was having difficulty sleeping. He had suffered from this condition for many years. Life was stressful in the Iannarelli home. Tammy, Michael's wife of nine years, suffered from transverse myelitis*fn1 which left much of her body paralyzed or numb. The family was deeply in debt. Tammy's medical expenses and Michael's inability to find work created financial turmoil.

[¶3.] After doing small tasks around the home, Iannarelli entered his step-daughter's, A.S., bedroom and had a brief conversation with her. He informed A.S. that he had the "feeling [he] had to do something evil." Over A.S.'s protest, Iannarelli grabbed A.S.'s left breast and digitally penetrated her vagina. Iannarelli became emotionally upset and asked A.S. if she wanted to call the police. The authorities were not contacted. Iannarelli returned to sleep. In the morning and during the following day, A.S. did not behave as if anything had happened. Iannarelli believed the night's events had been a bad dream.

[¶4.] The next night, February 16, 2007, Iannarelli was again unable to sleep. After hearing a crash in his wife's bedroom, Iannarelli checked in on her and spoke with her briefly. Tammy's condition made it difficult for the couple to share a bed. Later, Iannarelli returned to his wife's bedroom with a hammer and struck her twice in the back of the head. He then strangled her from behind. Iannarelli realized he had blood on his shirt and beard. He washed himself off in the bathroom sink. Iannarelli carried the hammer with him to the bathroom. When it was discovered there, the hammer was still bloody and had strands of Tammy's hair stuck to it.

[¶5.] After cleaning himself, Iannarelli entered A.S.'s bedroom with two neckties, a head-wrap and a bottle of K-Y lubricant. A.S. awoke to find Iannarelli sitting on her floor. Iannarelli stood up and tied both of A.S.'s arms to the bed with the neckties and head scarf. A.S. exclaimed that the restraints hurt her wrists; Iannarelli did not loosen the bonds. A.S. screamed for help; Iannarelli warned her that no one would hear her or come to her aid. A.S. struggled against him; Iannarelli stripped off her night clothes, poured lubricant on her body and penetrated her vagina with his penis. When Iannarelli had finished, he sat on A.S.'s bed and smoked a cigarette.

[¶6.] After finishing his cigarette, Iannarelli freed A.S. He had tied the knots so tightly that he had to cut her bonds with a pair of scissors. When A.S. asked about her mother, Iannarelli replied she was "in her room." Iannarelli told A.S. to wait in the bedroom until the police arrived.

[¶7.] Iannarelli made a pot of coffee and dialed 911.

[¶8.] An indictment, filed on February 26, 2007, charged Iannarelli with one count of first degree murder or, in the alternative, one count of second degree murder, and one count of second degree rape. Several motions were filed by the parties and granted. These motions included Iannarelli's request for a psychiatric examination and the State's notice of intent to seek the death penalty. The court also approved Iannarelli's requests for a second attorney to aid in his defense and to sever the rape from the murder trial, fearing the circumstances of the two crimes would be highly prejudicial to Iannarelli's defense.

[¶9.] On October 11, 2007, after the psychiatric evaluation determined that Iannarelli was not insane at the time of the crimes, Iannarelli and the State entered into a plea agreement. As a part of this agreement, Iannarelli pleaded guilty but mentally ill to manslaughter in the first degree and second degree rape. The agreement detailed the maximum penalties Iannarelli faced for these crimes: life without the possibility of parole for manslaughter and fifty years for rape. The agreement avoided the potential of a death penalty.

[ΒΆ10.] Before sentencing, the court obtained a pre-sentence report, additional psychiatric evaluations, and victim impact statements. The psychiatric evaluations suggest that, based on Mr. Iannarelli's actions and history, he is a "high risk to the community" whose prognosis for amenability to treatment is "questionable at best." Iannarelli had no prior felony convictions. On December 21, 2007, Iannarelli was sentenced ...

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