A Michigan man has has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the brutal murder of his 5-year-old stepdaughter in 2016. Following a three-day bench trial in July, 25-year-old Thomas McClellan was found guilty of first-degree felony murder, first-degree child abuse, and first-degree arson in connection with the stabbing death of Luna Younger. Authorities say that McClellan admitted to the horrific crime, which took place on November 1, and claimed that the girl’s request for food is what set him off.
In a taped confession that was played at the July trial, Thomas McClellan claimed that he stabbed 5-year-old Luna to death because she interrupted his nap to ask him for something to eat. After killing his stepdaughter, McClellan said he doused her body in vodka and lit it on fire in an attempt to disguise what he had done, reports CBS News.
Little Luna Younger’s mother was at work at the time of the murder, having left her daughter in the care of her stepfather.
According to McClellan, he initially responded to the child’s request for food by telling her that it wasn’t dinner time. He then says he then told her to leave the room where he was napping, but she refused, sitting on the floor instead. Thomas McClellan told investigators that this act of defiance was the last straw.
“It tipped me over the edge. She gave me more attitude.”
After his stepdaughter refused to leave the room, McClellan attacked, fatally stabbing the 5-year-old. Prosecutors say that Thomas McClellan stabbed Luna at least five times. Some time later, he piled paper towels and blankets, and attempted to hide his crime by setting the pile on fire.
As the Lansing State Journal reports, Thomas McClellan was sentenced to between 18 and 30 years in prison for the charges of first-degree child abuse and first-degree arson, in addition to his life without parole sentence for first-degree felony murder. In Michigan, first-degree felony murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. McClellan will serve the sentences for all three crimes concurrently.
A death sentence was never on the table in McClellan’s case, as Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1847, becoming the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish capital punishment.
At his sentencing hearing at the Ingham County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Judge Joyce Draganchuk called on the public not to hurt themselves by “dwelling on the why” in the horrific and seemingly senseless murder.
“I think the whole community, beyond just the affected families, the whole community is asking ‘why, why?’ And the answer is, we need to leave ‘why’ behind because there is no ‘why,’ and it will only torture everyone trying to understand why. Because what reason would possibly justify this, where we would say, ‘oh that’s an explanation of why?’ There is none. There is none, and we will only hurt ourselves by dwelling on the ‘why.'”
Patrick Crowley, defense lawyer for Thomas McClellan, claimed at the sentencing hearing that his client isn’t a “wicked man,” despite having committed a “wicked act.” McClellan himself declined to speak at the sentencing hearing.
Luna Younger’s mother did not appear at the sentencing, but the grieving ex-wife of the defendant had been on hand for most of her daughter’s murder trial. A spokesperson for the family did however speak out to the silent McClellan, sharing a message of forgiveness for the man who took the life of their 5-year-old relative.
“Tom, I forgive you and I pray for you. And I desire peace and hope for you.”
It is unclear if Thomas McClellan had family or friends of his own in the courtroom, and family members of the victim declined to comment about the sentencing following the hearing.
[Featured Image by Ingham County Sheriff’s Department]