LaVerkin man sentenced for manslaughter

ST. GEORGE – A LaVerkin man was sentenced to serve two years in jail for manslaughter and obstruction of justice in 5th District Court in St. George Thursday. The charges stem from an October 2013 incident in which a man ultimately died from injuries sustained during an alleged drunken brawl.

John Stettler Stucki, 55, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter in December relating to the death of 64-year-old Donald Loomer. Stucki had originally been charged with first-degree murder, but the charge was reduced as part of a plea deal.

Judge John J. Walton noted that the presentencing investigation conducted by Adult Probation and Parole recommended prison time for Stucki, which could result in Stucki serving 15 years in the state prison system.

“But that’s not what we’re here to talk about,” Walton said, and looked toward Deputy Washington County Attorney Zachary Weiland.

The state asked for one year in the Washington County Purgatory Correction Facility for each charge Stucki faced, to be served concurrently. This would give Stucki two years in prison. With credit given for time already served, Stucki will be paroled in October of this year.

Weiland said Loomer’s family didn’t want Stucki to be incarcerated. However, the state believes “it is in the interest of justice,” as Weiland previously stated in court, that Stucki serve time in jail

The charges against Stucki stem from an incident on Oct. 9, 2013, in which police were called to a property in LaVerkin where Stucki was working as a caretaker at the time. When police arrived at the scene, they found an unconscious man lying in the driveway, later identified as Loomer, who appeared to have been in a fight. Loomer was ultimately flown by Life Flight to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he died following his arrival.

Police officers encountered an intoxicated Stucki at the incident scene, and Stucki originally told police he had never seen Loomer before. Bruised and bloodied himself, Stucki said he had been attacked by gang members out of Iron County. It is from this exchange that the obstruction of justice felony charge originated.

Prior to the incident, Stucki had been allowing the homeless Loomer to stay on the property in a tent. Loomer evidently was not following rules Stucki had asked him to observe while staying there, and an altercation took place.

According to court records, Stucki grabbed a stick and hit Loomer in the back of the head with it.

Both men were allegedly drunk at the time of the fight.

Edward Flint, Stucki’s lawyer, said Loomer originally had the stick, possibly a walking stick, and hit Stucki with it, leaving a scar with marks that matched notches on the stick. In an act of self-defense, Flint said, his client grabbed the stick and hit Loomer with it.

After hitting Loomer, Stucki wandered off and drank until he passed out. After waking up some time later, he found the unconscious Loomer and called the police.

Flint said there was a great case for self-defense, but due to the possibility Stucki could have been convicted by a jury if they went forward with a trial, Stucki opted for the plea deal. A 15-year prison sentence at Stucki’s age might as well be a life sentence, Flint said.

Stucki has a long list of prior offenses dating back to 1982, Weiland said, all of which are misdemeanors – many related to intoxication or theft – with a single felony charge in 2004 for substance abuse.

In addition to the two years in jail, Stucki will be put on 36 months supervised probation following his release from jail, write an apology letter to the victim’s family, and get a substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment. He was also ordered to pay $23,096 to Life Flight, but that will not be a condition of his probation, as Flint told the court his client’s financial situation would make it difficult for him to meet that obligation.

Stucki is also not to possess or consume alcohol or be any place where alcohol is sold or served during his probation.

“The biggest thing he has to overcome is alcohol,” Flint said, adding Stucki has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as much as possible in the county jail and has committed to continuing with the program once he is released.

“If anything, two years in jail is two years sobriety, and I think that he has a good start,” Flint said. “Ultimately, I think Mr. Stucki’s problems are related to alcoholism. I believe he is committed to make an amends to society.”

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