The sentencing phase of Quentin L. Smith death penalty trial began Nov. 4 with emotional statements from the widows of the two Westerville police officers that he was convicted of murdering.
A Franklin County jury convicted Smith Nov. 1 of purposely killing Westerville police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.
The jury deliberated for 3 1/2 hours before finding Smith guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, along with specifications that the victims were on-duty officers and that he killed more than one person. Those specifications made Smith, 32, eligible for the death penalty.
The jury of nine women and three men also convicted Smith of one count of domestic violence for assaulting his wife, Candace, an incident that prompted her 911 hang-up call that sent officers to the couple's townhome apartment in the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive on Feb. 10, 2018.
Smith killed both officers in an exchange of gunfire after opening the door of the apartment shortly after noon. Joering was shot three times, Morelli once and Smith five times.
"My husband died a hero that day," said Jamie Joering, Joering's widow, at the penalty trial. "He took an oath to serve and protect, and he died that day doing just that."
Linda Morelli, Morelli's widow, spoke about missing the Post-It notes her husband left for her, "slow dancing in the kitchen while cooking together" and him "bringing me flowers, just because."
The Morellis' daughter, Elizabeth, told the jury about getting married four months after her father's death, with a heart-shaped piece of his shirt sewn into her wedding dress and his badge number pinned to it, "so it was like he was walking me down the aisle."
Jurors also heard the defense begin to present mitigating factors, such as Smith's upbringing and mental illness, in an effort to convince them that a life sentence is most-appropriate.
The jury was tasked with balancing the aggravating circumstances of the crime -- that Smith purposely killed two on-duty officers -- against the mitigating factors about Smith's history, character and background in determining whether to recommend a sentence of death or life in prison.
In her opening statement, defense attorney Diane Menashe told jurors they would hear that Smith suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, including schizoaffective disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, and wasn't taking his medication at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said that the aggravating circumstances of the crime are so strong that nothing the defense presents "will mitigate against a sentence of death."
Regarding the conviction, Keith Ferrell, president of Capital City Lodge No. 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the verdicts "a big burden off of everybody, law enforcement in central Ohio and certainly the families."
Westerville police Chief Charles Chandler issued a statement saying: "It has been emotionally brutal for our department and our community to relive Feb. 10, 2018."
He said the department's focus has been on supporting the fallen officers' families, and he offered "hope that when the sentencing portion of the proceedings are finished it brings additional peace and comfort to their healing process."
The last time a defendant was sentenced to death in Franklin County for killing a police officer was in 2008, when a federal jury in Columbus recommended that Daryl Lawrence be executed for the fatal shooting of Columbus police Officer Bryan Hurst during a Far East Side bank robbery. Lawrence remains in a federal prison.
Check ThisWeekNEWS.com/Westerville for updates.