OSWEGO — The Central Square man accused of brutally killing two men in West Monroe last September entered a not guilty plea Friday in Oswego County Court.
Initially charged with two counts of second-degree murder following the September deaths of 59-year-old Michael Shane and 42-year-old Robert Diffin, a grand jury indictment filed last week instead charged the 34-year-old LeBoeuf with two counts of second-degree manslaughter. LeBoeuf pleaded not guilty on both counts in a brief arraignment hearing in county court Friday.
Members of Diffin’s family spoke with The Palladium-Times this week and expressed disappointment in the charges and questioned how such a brutal killing could be interpreted as manslaughter and not murder.
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.
Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes said the two counts of second-degree manslaughter essentially allege LeBoeuf “recklessly caused the death of Robert Diffin and Michael Shane.” Oakes, who cannot comment on grand jury proceedings, said “a full and fair presentation of all the evidence” in the case was given to the grand jury.
“The grand jury ultimately determined to return this indictment for these two counts,” Oakes said. “I certainly can’t criticize their decision and I trust that they reviewed all the evidence and considered it, but we’re not privy to the liberation process of the grand jury.”
If convicted, Oakes said LeBoeuf — due to a previous felony conviction — could face up to seven and one-half to 15 years in prison on each count. If the sentences were to run consecutively, LeBoeuf could spend 15 to 30 years in prison.
Diffin’s sister Amy LaClair objected to the manslaughter charge, noting it implies LeBoeuf recklessly caused the death of her brother and Shane. She finds it difficult to believe LeBoeuf accidentally caused the pair’s deaths by brutally beating them with a table leg.
“You don’t bludgeon two people to death by accident,” Diffin’s ex-wife Jill Danieu said.
In speaking with The Palladium-Times, Danieu said she was “disgusted and heartbroken” that the victim’s life was only worth seven to 14 years. The two were raising a son together, she said, and expressed frustration that “someday, way sooner than he should be, (LeBoeuf) will be free again to hurt and/or kill someone else.”
“(Diffin) was attacked and ultimately killed just sitting in his own home by a monster that just popped up at his door,” Danieu said. “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.”
Danieu said she hopes LeBoeuf ultimately receives the maximum sentence for causing the death of Diffin and Shane, but called even that “no more than a slap on the wrist considering the crime.”
LeBoeuf, who is in custody at the Oswego County Jail, has been undergoing psychological evaluation, according to Attorney Mary Felasco, who Friday asked Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner Jr. for more time to file pre-trial motions.
Felasco said the psychiatrist hired to complete the psychological assessment on LeBoeuf is not yet done with the evaluation. According to court documents viewed by The Palladium-Times, LeBoeuf has a “history of mental health issues,” and has been treated at Oswego Behavioral Health and by the state of Nevada Corrections Department.
The charges LeBoeuf is facing stem from a Sept. 10 incident in which authorities were dispatched to the 347 Breckheimer Road home owned by Diffin and found two victims with what were described as “massive injuries.”
A woman driving by the home that morning called 911, and saw a man matching LeBoeuf’s description “acting strange” and pacing around her vehicle and an individual hunched over in the doorway covered with blood.
“I could not say what the male in the doorway was wearing because he was covered in so much blood,” the caller later said in a statement to police, adding the individual in the doorway later fell down and the door shut.
Diffin was transported to University Hospital and pronounced dead several hours later. Shane spent more than a week in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries
Arresting officers said LeBoeuf “intentionally, knowingly, unlawfully, criminally and recklessly” committed the offense of murder in causing the death of Diffin by “repeatedly striking” the victim’s head and torso with a “blunt object.” Authorities said LeBoeuf appeared to be impaired by drugs at the time of the arrest.
In a statement to police, LeBoeuf’s mother Victoria said she dropped her son off at Diffin’s home around 9:30 a.m. Sept. 10, around two hours before authorities were called to Breckheimer Road. She said LeBoeuf’s mood was “not really good” that morning, but described him as “calm” at the time she dropped him off.
LeBoeuf’s mother also told police her son has psychological issues, “frontal lobe damage” and “intermittent anger explosive disorder.” She also described him as “a drug user, saying he would “use any drug he can touch.”
“(LeBoeuf) gets messed up on drugs and then flips out destroying items and is very violent,” his mother told deputies.
A former girlfriend of LeBoeuf’s, Bobbie Jo Webber, told The Palladium-Times last year the accused killer has mental issues and a drug problem. She described LeBoeuf as a man in need of help for mental issues, noting “if he gets the help he needs and stays away from drugs and alcohol he is a nice person.”
Webber said when the couple dated LeBoeuf was an “OK guy,” but had “anger issues if he didn’t get his way.”
LeBoeuf’s one-time girlfriend called Diffin “a great guy,” saying he was “always there to help if someone needed it.”
Pre-trial motions from the defense are due Aug. 5, with the prosecution scheduled to respond by Aug. 13.