Peoria ex-missionary sentenced to 80 years in prison for killing wife on Valentine's Day



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PEORIA, Illinois — A former Baptist missionary convicted of shooting his wife to death on Valentine's Day last year has been sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Peoria County Circuit Judge Kevin Lyons sentenced Nathan Leuthold, 39, on Wednesday in the slaying of Denise Leuthold, 39, the (Peoria) Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1tME3Fu ). Lyons spoke to Leuthold and the crowded courtroom for 26 minutes, saying although many described Leuthold as a "good person," he "poisoned" that image by murdering his wife.

"I have to give you credit. You have led a law-abiding life, and for many years, you did good things. But you have poisoned it all," Lyons said to Leuthold before delivering his 80-year sentence.

Lyons called Leuthold a "thief" for robbing his children of their mother, as well as taking Denise away from the rest of her family. A relative read a statement on behalf of Denise's parents, saying the family is "disgusted" by their son-in-law and his actions.

"We are repulsed at his calculated, evil scheming. He has robbed us of the rest of our daughter's life," the statement said. "We've had to wrestle with Nathan's hypocrisy in claiming to be a man of God."

Leuthold was accused of shooting his wife in her parents' Peoria home so he could pursue an affair with a 21-year-old Lithuanian woman. He and his wife sponsored her to study in the U.S.

Leuthold has denied he shot his wife. His attorney argued that someone broke into the house. He said prosecutors didn't prove their case against his client and there was no proof Leuthold and the Lithuanian woman were having an affair.

But detectives testified that the house looked too neat after an alleged burglary. They also said Leuthold didn't "act right" when he was told about his wife's death.

State's Attorney Jerry Brady said the murder was Leuthold's well-planned "Valentine's Day present" to his mistress. He argued that Leuthold owned the same weapon used in the slaying and had conducted Internet searches to learn how to silence the gun.

"Symptomatic of the person we were are here today to see sentenced, he pulls the trigger, blows his wife's head off and then goes about his affairs, making sure he is on camera at each of these locations," Brady said.

Leuthold didn't show any emotion throughout the sentencing, even when he was told he would likely spend the rest of his life in jail.

"You will end your life in a cold and gray and isolated Illinois penitentiary where you will be more of a number than a name," Lyons told him. "You'll be leaving this county to become more of a nobody and less of a somebody."


Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

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