WINNEMUCCA — The man convicted of second-degree murder in April for the shooting death of daughter was sentenced on Monday (June 13) exactly one year to the day he picked up the gun and shot his daughter in the chest – ending her life.
Leo Hunter Jr., 55, was sentenced to serve a minimum of 14 years in prison. He had exactly 365 days credit for time served.
Lenora Hunter was 29 years old at the time of her death.
CASE HISTORY: According to trial testimony, Leo and Lenora had a contentious relationship. He was an alcoholic who spent his evenings drinking. She was a drug user and her habit included methamphetamine.
Lenora and her two young daughters lived with her parents. While Leo and Stella Hunter tried to provide a stable environment for their granddaughters, Leo and Lenora fought over the care of the children.
On the night of the shooting, Lenora had a verbal dispute with her father. She had methamphetamine in her system; his blood alcohol content was an estimated .35 percent.
Following the dispute with her father, Lenora Hunter announced to her mother she was leaving and taking the children. Concerned for his two granddaughters, Leo Hunter grabbed a firearm from the closet and went to confront his daughter.
No one saw what happened next. Stella Hunter testified she heard the shot then saw her daughter fall.
Leo Hunter said it was never his intention to shoot Lenora; he merely wanted to frighten her into leaving the children rather than exposing them to her dangerous lifestyle.
ALLOCUTION: Allowed to speak on his own behalf, Leo Hunter stood in court on Monday and remembered when his daughter was born and later when she was a young girl.
He said, “We called her Pumpkin because she was so round. And she was always smiling.”
Later, Lenora Hunter faced tragic events in her life, including a rape, and turned to drugs.
Her father said, “We didn’t know what to do for her.”
Hoping to get Lenora out of the drug culture of Panama City, Florida, the family moved to Winnemucca about a year prior to her death.
About the night of the shooting Leo Hunter said, “All I wanted to do was frighten her into considering the consequences of her actions.”
He continued and said he still sees the scene of the shooting in his mind every day: Lenora, his daughter, gasping for air and his beloved granddaughters screaming for help.
He told the court he failed to help the people he loved and added, “I need them to know I’m very sorry.”
SENTENCING: Leo Hunter was represented in court by Public Defender Matt Stermitz.
Stermitz noted the defendant had no criminal history and retired from military service after more than 20 years.
Stermitz also noted if not for his two granddaughters Leo Hunter would not be in court; the actions he took were an attempt to protect them from their mother’s dangerous lifestyle.
For second-degree murder Stermitz agreed with the recommendation of Parole & Probation of 10-25 years in prison. On the deadly weapon enhancement, which P&P recommended 4.5 – 12 years, Stermitz asked instead for 1-2 years.
Representing the state was Chief Deputy DA Kevin Pasquale.
Pasquale noted there were more victims than just Lenora Hunter. He pointed to her children, still little girls, who would grow up without their mother. He also pointed to Lenora’s mother, Stella, her closest friend.
Pasquale said, “Mr. Hunter had a difference with his daughter. He passed a sentenced on her that evening. It cost her — her life.”
He continued, “A life for a life is appropriate.”
He asked the court to impose a life sentence of 25 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years had been served. On the deadly weapon enhancement, Pasquale asked the court to stick to the P&P recommendation of 4.5 – 12 years.
Judge Michael Montero sentenced the defendant for second-degree murder to 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years was served; for the deadly weapon enhancement 4.5 – 12 years to be served consecutively, one right after the other.
The defendant had 365 days credit for time served.