December 20, 2014

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William Dembie appeals sentence for wife’s murder

William Dembie listens as the judge reads his sentence last month. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

William Dembie listens as the judge reads his sentence last month. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Convicted killer William Dembie Jr. is appealing his sentence of 20 years to life in prison for stabbing his estranged wife to death.

Brian Darling, Dembie’s lawyer, said his client won’t appeal his conviction last year on murder and other charges for the Aug. 11, 2011, slaying of Holly Dembie at the couple’s Cowley Road home in Grafton Township.

“There was sufficient evidence to uphold the verdict,” Darling said.

But he also said that Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski went too far in imposing separate sentences for a felonious assault charge that Dembie also was convicted of in addition to the murder charge.

Betleski himself acknowledged that the issue could end up before an appeals court when he sentenced Dembie to five years in prison for the felonious assault charge and 15 years to life on the murder charge.

Dembie, who was a Lorain County Jail guard at the time of the killing, told detectives that he and his wife got into an argument about their failing marriage and he hit her. After helping her clean up, he said he got a combat knife so she would listen to him.

The argument resumed and Holly Dembie tried to flee her husband, who pulled her shirt off in the house. She ran upstairs to a second-floor bathroom and was climbing out a window when William Dembie forced open the door, pulled off her pants and stabbed her before letting her fall to the ground outside.

He then went downstairs and outside and stabbed her multiple times, including in the neck. After she was dead, Dembie called the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and told a dispatcher that he had almost beheaded his wife.

Prosecutors had sought to have Dembie convicted on a more serious aggravated murder charge, arguing that he planned the murder, but defense attorneys successfully convinced Betleski that it wasn’t a premeditated slaying.

But prosecutors were able to convince Betleski to impose consecutive prison sentences, even though Dembie’s lawyers argued the fight in the bathroom was part of the same course of conduct as the killing outside and Dembie should only have been given a sentence of 15 years to life.

Darling said that will be the crux of the appeal.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.