Hilliard Northwest News

Dunkle sentenced to 20 years for killing mother


Alcoholism and mental illness led Tyler J. Dunkle to strangle his mother during an argument in their Hilliard townhouse, his attorney said last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Dunkle, 23, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 44-year-old Terri L. Menendez. He also pleaded guilty to robbery and tampering with evidence in the case.

Dunkle did not want to make a statement in court, according to his attorney, David Thomas.

The sentence, imposed by Judge David E. Cain on April 22, was recommended by prosecution and defense attorneys in a plea agreement.

The agreement was struck in consultation with family members, who "wanted Tyler to take responsibility and do right by (Menendez) but didn't want to sit through a trial," Assistant County Prosecutor Robert Letson told the judge.

Dunkle was charged with murder after police found his mother's body in a closet of their home on Westham Way on April 1, 2013.

Officers, who went to the home in response to concerned calls from family and friends after Menendez failed to show up for work, also found Dunkle unconscious and unresponsive in his room.

After he recovered at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, Dunkle told officers he had strangled his mother during an argument March 29 and hid her body in the closet. He then stole her car and visited several stores to purchase alcohol and over-the-counter medication for use in a suicide attempt, Letson said.

A friend told officers that Menendez had recently "cut (her son) off financially" and refused to let him use her car, Letson said. Dunkle told police that they were arguing about finances and his mother was demanding money from his paycheck.

Thomas said his client is a graduate of Chillicothe High School, where he played football and was an honor-roll student. He then attended Capital University, where problems with alcohol and mental illness became apparent, Thomas said.

Dunkle's half-sister, Marissa Menendez, attended the hearing and asked Letson to read aloud from a letter she had written.

She recalled that she and her mother enjoyed a "fun girls' shopping trip" on the weekend before the slaying and that she sensed something odd with Dunkle.

"I knew that something was wrong," she wrote, "but I never imagined how wrong."