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"Zachary’s Law" killer to be resentenced to life

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The child molester whose murder of a 10-year-old boy led to the creation of the Indiana sex offender registry will be resentenced to life in prison without parole after his death sentence was overturned.

Christopher M. Stevens, 37, of Cloverdale agreed to the sentence during a meeting Tuesday night in Tippecanoe Superior Court. He will be formally sentenced Nov. 23 in Lafayette.

Stevens was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of Zachary Snider of Cloverdale. But a federal appeals court set aside the death penalty in 2007 and let the murder conviction stand after determining that defense lawyers at the original trial hadn’t presented adequate evidence of his mental illness.

A new penalty phase trial had been set for February, but Zachary’s parents agreed to dropping pursuit of the death penalty.

“Our family has suffered enough and would like for this to be resolved once and for all,” Todd Snider, Zachary’s father, said in a written statement to the court. “This will give our family finality. Chris Stevens will die in prison and will never have the opportunity to destroy people’s lives again.”

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he believed Stevens likely would have been sentenced to death again, but he felt compelled to abide by the Sniders’ wishes.

“I believe it was probable that another jury would have given Mr. Stevens the death penalty, but it would have caused the Sniders to go through a lengthy jury trial, and then if convicted, a new set of appeals could have gone on another 10 years,” he said. “With the plea, this case is over. There are no more appeals and the Sniders should never have to deal with Stevens again.”

Stevens’ attorney, Joseph Cleary of Indianapolis, declined comment.

The 1993 murder led to the state Legislature’s passage the following year of Zachary’s Law, which requires convicted sex offenders living in Indiana to register with local law-enforcement agencies.

Authorities said Stevens, who had a prior conviction for child molestation, admitted that he strangled the boy because he had threatened to tell his parents that they had engaged in sexual acts.

“We talk about Stevens ad nauseam,” Bookwalter said. “What we should be thinking about is this 10-year-old kid who never got to get a driver’s license, go to a prom, meet a girl and get married. His life was just snuffed out.”

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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