OSWEGO — The Central Square man accused of brutally killing two men in West Monroe last September appeared in county court Wednesday and a judge rejected a proposed plea deal that promised no more than 10 to 20 years in prison.
Mathew LeBoeuf, the man charged in the deaths of two men last year in West Monroe, appeared before Judge Walter Hafner Jr. in county court Wednesday morning.
The 34-year-old LeBoeuf, who is represented by defense Attorney Mary Felasco, entered a not guilty plea in June, and appeared to be poised to plead guilty to the crimes Wednesday before Hafner
LeBoeuf’s alleged crimes stem from a September 2018 incident at 347 Breckheimer Road in West Monroe in which two men were killed. Arresting officers said LeBoeuf “intentionally, knowingly, unlawfully, criminally and recklessly” committed the offense of murder in causing the death of 42-year-old Robert Diffin, the owner of Breckheimer Road property, by “repeatedly striking” the victim’s head and torso with a “blunt object.”
Initially charged by police with two counts of second-degree murder following the deaths of Diffin and 59-year-old Michael Shane, LeBoeuf was indicted by a grand jury earlier this year on two counts of second-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree manslaughter is a class C felony, and indicates the grand jury concluded LeBoeuf “recklessly caused the death” of Diffin and Shane. Grand juries are tasked with determining if probable cause exists to support criminal charges and the decisions made by grand juries ultimately set the parameters for what charges a jury could consider in any potential upcoming trial.
About a dozen supporters of the victims attended the hearing Wednesday, some wearing green “Justice for Mike and Bobby” shirts. Several of Diffin’s relatives who spoke with The Palladium-Times earlier this year were angry, disappointed and perplexed when the grand jury decided on manslaughter charges
LeBoeuf and his attorney were seeking to plead guilty Wednesday in exchange for a sentence of no more than 5 to 10 years, which would run consecutively, on each of the two second-degree manslaughter charges the Central Square man is facing.
“We’re here to determine whether or not the court will accept the offer made by the DA to us, which I think both of us — the DA and myself — feel is fair under the circumstances,” Felasco said, noting a letter sent to Hafner “set forth a lot of what’s going on” in the case.
Felasco said the district attorney’s office recommendation included a five to 10 year sentence on each of the two counts of second-degree manslaughter, which would be served consecutively, or one after another, for a total of 10 to 20 years in prison.
“Under the circumstances, I’ve spoken to my client at length regarding this case, and if the court would approve that offer, we’d be ready to go forward,” Felasco said.
Hafner appeared irritated and said the only offer was to plead guilty as charged with the two counts of manslaughter. When Felasco noted there was a recommendation for sentencing, Hafner pointed out the court determines sentencing and made no promise that the court would sentence LeBoeuf to less than 7 ½ to 15 years — the maximum sentence for the charges.
“That gives us no reason to plead guilty,” Felasco said and requested Hafner recuse himself from any upcoming trial. “I think the court has already made a decision as to the guilt or innocence of my client. I would ask the court to recuse itself so if we do decide to have a bench trial that the decision is not already made.”
There was no basis for a recusal, Hafner said, adding the court was asked to make a sentence promise and granted that promise. Felasco said Hafner was forcing the case to go toward trial by not even offering a promise of a year less than the maximum sentence.
Members of Diffin’s family spoke with The Palladium-Times in June and again Wednesday, expressing disappointment in such a brutal killing being interpreted as manslaughter and not murder.
“(Diffin) was attacked and ultimately killed just sitting in his own home by a monster that just popped up at his door,” Diffin’s ex-wife Jill Danieu said earlier this year. “How do you make your son feel safe when the boogey men and monsters that hurt and kill people get less time than some drug dealers. I’ll never understand that.”
Diffin’s sister Amy LaClair said Wednesday she appreciated Hafner’s actions, adding she doesn’t feel that the maximum seven and one-half to 15-year sentence is enough time but understands it’s the maximum allowed by law.
“Bob is greatly missed by many and his son is heartbroken and it’s just not fair that one day he will learn that his father’s killer will be released,” LaClair said.
Karen Norton, another sister of Diffin’s, said she was grateful for the support of the people who came to the courthouse Wednesday to show support, as well as those who couldn’t attend but offered prayers and kind words. Norton said the support and knowing how much others care helps the family not feel so alone.
Norton and other members of the victim’s family have said their wish is to see LeBoeuf receive the maximum penalty possible, in part because the initial murder charges would have carried a lengthier prison sentence than the manslaughter charges LeBoeuf currently faces.
“Also because (LeBoeuf) never even tried to get help for his supposed friends and has not shown any remorse at all,” Norton said of why family members are hoping to see LeBoeuf receive the maximum seven and one-half to 15 year sentence for both counts.
According to police incident reports, a woman driving by the Breckheimer Road property the morning of the incident called 911 and reported a man matching LeBoeuf’s description “acting strange” and pacing around her vehicle. She told authorities she saw an individual hunched over in the doorway covered with blood.
In a statement to police, LeBoeuf’s mother said she dropped her son off at Diffin’s home around 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 10, about two hours before authorities were called to Breckheimer Road. LeBoeuf’s mother described her son as a drug user who would “use any drug he can touch,” and also told police her son has psychological issues, including “frontal lobe damage” and “intermittent anger explosive disorder.”
LeBoeuf’s next court date is scheduled for Oct. 29 at 1 p.m.