MONTICELLO - A Sullivan County judge on Thursday convicted Toby J. Smith for the murder of 83-year-old Lorraine Gempler at her Kenoza Lake home last year.
Judge Michael F. McGuire presided over the bench trial, rejecting Smith's defense of insanity and finding him guilty of seven felonies, including two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted assault, second-degree assault, first-degree strangulation and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Timothy Havas, representing Smith with assistance from former District Attorney Steve Lungen, argued an insanity defense due to a mental illness that prevented Smith from understanding the nature and consequences of what he was doing, or that it was wrong.
McGuire acquitted Smith, 45, of Kenoza Lake, of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and five felony burglary charges.
Smith faced 13 felony charges, which reflected different theories of the crime under state law.
As McGuire read his verdict to a crowded courtroom, Smith maintained the same emotionless face he wore throughout the trial.
On Sept. 24, 2018, Gempler returned to her home to find Smith inside with his dog. He struck her several times in the head with a blue vase and strangled her.
Smith was confronted by David Slater of Jeffersonville, a friend who showed up to visit Gempler. Smith assaulted Slater, who was eventually able to subdue Smith with the help of Gempler’s neighbor Thomas Gain until police arrived.
Sullivan County District Attorney James Farrell argued during the trial that Smith entered Gempler’s home to burglarize it.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20. Smith faces up to 40 years to life, according to Farrell.
“The pain that the Gempler family has suffered is enormous," Farrell said in a statement. "The acts of violence and murder perpetrated here by this defendant were pure evil and there is no verdict that can restore this family to the way it was when they shared their last meal with Mrs. Gempler immediately before this defendant viciously and cruelly killed her.
"I am pleased that the court rejected his insanity defense and that the defendant will be spending up to the rest of his natural life in a state prison - where he belongs so he cannot harm anyone else."