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Parents of slain child testify in murder trial

By BRYAN REYNOLDS • Jan 4, 2018 at 5:00 PM

OTTAWA (TNS) — As the murder trial of Michael Luebrecht, accused of murdering his 13-month-old son in 2005, continued into its second day Tuesday at Putnam County Common Pleas Court, both of the victim's parents took the stand to offer testimony.

Luebrecht pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in 2005 for drowning his son, Joel, in a bathtub and has served 12 years in prison for the crime. Recently, Judge Randall Basinger allowed Luebrecht to change his plea to not guilty and have a jury trial to attempt to prove he committed the crime because of side effects of medications he was on for depression and obsessive compulsive disorder at the time of the murder.

Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers rested the states case after the jury heard from the prosecution's final two witnesses, Sheriff Deputy Greg Westrick and Detective Marvin Schwiebert. Lammers asked the two men about Luebrecht’s emotional status on the day Joel was murdered. Both men said he seemed cold and emotionless and didn't seem intoxicated by substances.

During cross examination, defense attorney Danny Hill asked the deputy and detective if the sheriff’s office offers training in spotting people suffering from mental health medication side effects.

“I never heard of them offering training like that,” Schweibert said.

Later in the afternoon, Luebrecht took the stand. He described his history of mental illness to the jury, using a timeline his wife created as an aid. Luebrecht said he has massive gaps in his memory due to his medications.

The medications Luebrecht took from 1994 to 2004 were working, Amy Luebrecht said during her testimony. She said during that decade he was a great spouse and father until late 2004.

“He was talkative, fun, very courteous,” she said. “He loved to help people. He was a really nice guy. There were times he wasn't as talkative and helpful. He would sleep more.”

Michael Luebrecht said he didn't remember much from the time he was hospitalized from December 2004 to the day he murdered his son, though he remembers in clear detail killing Joel.

“There was a mission to kill Joel and that mission had to be done,” he said, describing the feeling as some outside force pushing him to commit the crime.

Luebrecht continued describing how he had filled the bathtub before going to the babysitters. He mimicked with his hands how he held the boy and then lowered his hands as he described lowering Joel into the bathtub and drowning him.

Amy Luebrecht said the man who killed their son wasn’t the Michael Luebrecht she married. The man she married was a good man who always worried about other people, was honest to a fault and loved his children. When she learned about what happened to her son it wasn't Michael Luebrecht she was angry with, she said. She was angry and devastated that the numerous doctors he saw, who kept changing his medication, had failed him.

During cross examination, Lammers challenged Luebrecht's self-characterization of being an honest man by pointing out the number of times he lied during the day his son was murdered. He lied to the babysitter about picking his son up for a doctor visit, Lammers said. He also allegedly lied to Jeff Dickman, the neighbor who came to help give Joel Luebrecht CPR, by telling him the boy fell into the bathtub.

Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.

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