Christopher Smeltzer sentenced up to 30 years in prison for killing mentally ill wife after she strangled son and tries to kill daughter
BRENTWOOD: Christopher Smeltzer, a father has been sentenced on Friday to 15 to 30 years in prison for beating his mentally ill wife to death with a flashlight after he came home to find she had strangled their 4-year-old son, Mason, with a ribbon and tried to kill their 7-year-old daughter, Mercey.
Christopher Smeltzer, a resident of New Hampshire, was sentenced for up to 30 years after pleading guilty to killing Mara Pappalardo in November 2010, who was hospitalized several times for mental illness.
Prosecutors say Mara Pappalardo was paranoid, obsessed with death and convinced her husband and mother-in-law were plotting to take her children away.
Mara Pappalardo was hospitalized for mental illness before she strangled their 4-year-old son with a ribbon and tried to kill their 7-year-old daughter.
Smeltzer initially was charged with second-degree manslaughter by provocation because of a horrific scene he encountered.
Prosecutors at his plea hearing in October changed the charge to manslaughter by provocation in deference to the horrific scene that triggered his actions.
The 90-minute sentencing took place in a Rockingham Superior courtroom. There was tension between members of Smeltzer’s family and his wife’s. And at one point, a member of her family shouted to Smeltzer that God will be the judge of his actions.
Judge Tina Nadeau questioned whether the outcome would have been the same had Smeltzer not used drugs that night, but she acknowledged that he must have had an extreme emotional reaction to what greeted him when he came home. She said nothing she could do or say would lessen the grief for the families.
“As soon as I saw my son I knew something was very wrong,” Smeltzer said, choking with emotion. “I knew he was dead and I lost all control. Enraged, I struck my wife. I did something that was not going to bring my son back.”
Smeltzer believed his daughter was dead as well. Prosecutors say toxicology tests confirm he took a large quantity of pills in an effort to take his own life. They say Mercey awakened him the next morning and asked if her mother and brother were breathing, and asked her father to make her some tea.
Young said the girl repeatedly told investigators it was her mother who carried her into the master bedroom and it was her father who removed the scarf from her neck.
Defense attorney John Newman asked the judge to impose a 7 1/2 to 10 year sentence, saying he could think of no greater provocation to manslaughter than Smeltzer picking up his dead son, putting his mouth to his son’s mouth only to find it ice cold.
“Mercey is an innocent victim of Chris’s actions as well as Mara’s actions,” Newman said. “Chris is painfully aware his actions were wrong.”
Pappaladro’s sisters spoke of her passion for nature and reading and dreams of writing children’s books one day.
“She believed in God, the saints, the power of prayer and love and even in magic,” her sister, Mona Harris, said.