Teen Sentenced For Killing Man Who Stopped To Help Him

CALDWELL, Ohio (AP) - A teen-ager was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison on Friday for killing a man who stopped to help him after he got in an accident.

Matthew Lallathin, 16, of Dexter City, was sentenced to 15 years to life on a murder charge and three years on a gun specification charge, the Noble County prosecutor's office said.

A common pleas jury convicted him Thursday of fatally shooting Todd Morrison, 38, of Byesville, when Morrison stopped to help him after Lallathin got in an accident last year in a truck the teen allegedly stole from his grandparents.

The jury rejected an argument from the defense that Lallathin had blacked out just before the shooting and does not remember it.

Lallathin's attorney Dennis Sipe told the jury Lallathin was suffering from disassociate amnesia, which caused him to block out the shooting because he was traumatized by the accident.

Prosecutors said Lallathin took a gun that belonged to his father and his grandfather's Ford Bronco on a day he had stayed home sick from school. The teen drove to Caldwell High School to show off the gun and overturned the truck in a ditch on his way home, prosecutors said.

Morrison was on his way back from visiting his parents' graves at a nearby cemetery when he stopped to help Lallathin.

Sipe said both he and Lallathin were disappointed in the jury's decision.

"He is a very withdrawn person and is certainly sorry for what happened," Sipe said. "He's been sorry all along, but it's hard when he doesn't remember doing anything wrong."

Morrison's sister Marsha McHenry, of Cambridge, said she was pleased with the verdict.

"But I feel for the Lallathins," McHenry said. "I have a son who will be 14 this summer, and I know how you feel about a child. This cannot be easy on them."

Caldwell is about 80 miles east of Columbus.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)