COLUMBIANA COUNTY Ex-teacher receives 6 years in killing plot

The defendant provided the would-be killer with a gun, the prosecutor said.
LISBON -- Saying that any lighter sentence "would demean the seriousness of this crime," Judge David Tobin of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court sentenced Thomas Kelm to six years at Lorain Correctional Institution.
Kelm, 35, of Leetonia, appeared Thursday before Judge Tobin.
"This is a conspiracy charge," Judge Tobin said sternly. "Conspiracy to commit murder is the worst kind of conspiracy."
Kelm pleaded guilty Aug. 17 to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, a first-degree felony bearing a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
About plot: He is accused of plotting with others to kill April Frantz and Catelynn Frantz, the 2-year-old daughter Kelm and April had together, and April's grandparents, Joe and Cora Frantz. The Frantzes shared a house in Lisbon.
Kelm's primary target was Catelynn because he was responsible for paying about $438 per month in child support for her, said John Gamble, an assistant county prosecutor who handled the case.
As part of the Aug. 17 plea agreement, Kelm pleaded guilty only to plotting to kill April, 21.
Remorse in court: Before sentencing, an emotional Kelm told the court that everything he has lost as a result of his poor judgment is far worse than any prison time he would serve.
"I said things under the influence of alcohol and drugs I never would have said sober," Kelm said. He paused for several moments before continuing. "I thank God no one was hurt."
Kelm said he used poor judgment, is alcohol and drug dependent, and became involved with the wrong people.
"I have no one to blame for standing here in orange [county jail clothing] and handcuffs but myself," he said.
Defense counsel Jim Hartford characterized Kelm as "a changing individual" and requested that Kelm receive a three- or four-year prison term.
Hartford said that as a result of his actions, Kelm lost not only his job as a teacher at the Columbiana County Career Center, but also a teaching career; contact with Catelynn and his four other children. Authorities didn't identify the mother or mothers of the other four.
Victim's statement: Kelm stared straight ahead as Karen Wright, the mother of April Frantz, read statements from April and the family.
"You have taught us that you can't trust no one in this world," Wright said. "You let everyone down -- your children, your family, and the kids in school who looked up to you."
Wright said April questioned why Kelm would want to kill anyone, his own 2-year-old daughter most of all.
"She is smart, pretty, vibrant," Wright read from April's statement. "I loved you and trusted you. Now all I feel is hate. I pray I never have to see you again."
Gamble later said Kelm supplied David Wilson, 19, of 11422 Canal St., Hanoverton, with a .22-caliber Ruger handgun from his own gun collection in the conspiracy plot.
Kelm said in his written statement that he is an alcoholic and had shared marijuana with Wilson. He said he had several beers during a conversation with Wilson that was secretly taped.
Kelm said he did not deny the recorded conversation in which the conspiracy plot was discussed, nor that he ever tried to stop it.
Child support: Gamble said the only motive for the conspiracy was Kelm's complaints of paying child support. Gamble said Kelm related in a written statement that he earned $2,900 per month as a teacher and that besides the support he was paying for Catelynn, he was paying child support for his four other children.
"I don't want people to be confused," Gamble said. "Kelm was not indicted because he talked about murder, but because he took overt acts toward that. He provided Wilson with the gun to kill April and her family."
Tobin sentenced Wilson on Sept. 20 to three years in prison. Wilson pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
Prosecutors recommended that Wilson get a minimum three-year sentence in exchange for his guilty plea. Prosecutors also noted that Wilson cooperated with investigators probing the murder plot. Wilson and April Frantz are cousins.