Kenoza Lake murderer gets maximum sentence

Posted 12/20/19

Press Release: District Attorney Jim Farrell announced today that Toby J. Smith, 45, of Jeffersonville, N.Y. was sentenced in Sullivan County Court by County Court Judge Michael McGuire to an …

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Kenoza Lake murderer gets maximum sentence

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Press Release: District Attorney Jim Farrell announced today that Toby J. Smith, 45, of Jeffersonville, N.Y. was sentenced in Sullivan County Court by County Court Judge Michael McGuire to an aggregate of 40 years to life in state prison, the maximum permitted under law, for the brutal murder of Lorraine Gempler and attempted assault on a neighbor of Mrs. Gempler in September 2018 in Kenoza Lake.  Smith was found guilty of Murder in the 2nd Degree (2 counts), class A-1 felonies, Attempted Assault in the 1st Degree, a class C violent felony, Assault in the 2nd Degree, a class D violent felony, Strangulation in the 1st Degree, a class C violent felony, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the 3rd Degree (2 counts), class D felonies; after a non-jury trial on September 19, 2018.  

At trial, the People established that the defendant unlawfully entered the home of Lorraine Gempler, 83, located on Swiss Hill Rd. North in the Town of Delaware on the evening of September 24, 2018 and intentionally caused her death by striking her multiple times in the head with a heavy blue glass vase as well as manually strangling her.   As the defendant was in the process of murdering Mrs. Gempler, her neighbor and friend, David Slater, arrived to visit.  Mr. Slater saw the defendant standing over the beaten and bleeding victim and immediately called 911.  While Mr. Slater was on the phone with 911 the defendant exited the Gempler home and engaged him in a physical altercation.  The defendant then, using the same heavy blue glass vase he used to bludgeon Mrs. Gempler, attempted to seriously injury Mr. Slater by swinging it at his head.  Slater deflected the blow off his nose.  A physical fight between Mr. Slater and the defendant ensued and Slater restrained the defendant.  Mr. Slater summoned the help of a another neighbor and the two men held the defendant until the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene and took the defendant into police custody.  The investigation into these vicious crimes was led by the Sullivan County Sheriff with assistance from the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Unit (FIU), the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office.  NYSP FIU found a fingerprint of the defendant on a birthday card that had been addressed to one of the victim’s great-grandchildren which was found torn open inside the Gempler home.  In addition, DNA evidence, as developed by the New York State Police Crime Laboratory in Albany, N.Y., established that the defendant had the victim’s blood on his jeans and boots and her blood was found on the murder weapon; and the defendant’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails and on the murder weapon. Smith claimed he was insane at the time of the crimes and that claim was rejected by the Court.

Farrell thanked the Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police and members of his Office for all their hard work in this case.  “Today the defendant was held accountable and responsible for the brutal murder of an innocent and widely beloved member of our community, Lori Gempler, and his separate attack on the man who caught him in the act.  The acts of violence and murder perpetrated here by this defendant were pure evil.  While no sentence can bring Lori back and restore this family and community from the pain they are enduring, it is hoped that the maximum sentence handed down today by the Court will provide the family and community with some measure of comfort knowing that this violent murderer will likely spend the rest of his life in prison where he can hurt no one else.  I also want to thank Dave Slater and Tom Gain, two neighbors who detained the defendant until the police arrived.  Their quick action prevented the defendant from fleeing and potentially avoiding apprehension.  It is fitting that I was able, in my last trial as Sullivan County District Attorney, to seek and obtain justice for Lori, her family and our community.”  Farrell said. 

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