HUNTINGTON — Other than the late John Baxter Hysell, only two other people know exactly what happened to cause his death — Rocco Cooper and Mary Judd-Cooper — but an autopsy has made it clear the death was a torturous homicide.
Hysell, 73, of Huntington, was found severely beaten at his home in Huntington's West End in October 2016 and later died at St. Mary's Medical Center. The Coopers were his caretakers at the time of his death, and an autopsy performed on the victim linked the couple directly to his death.
Rocco Wayne Cooper, 32, previously entered a Kennedy plea to second-degree murder in Hysell's death and received the maximum 40-year prison sentence by Cabell Circuit Judge Christopher D. Chiles. A Kennedy plea allows the defendant to accept the punishment of a crime, but not admit his or her guilt.
Cooper returned to court Friday seeking a more lenient sentence, but Chiles denied the request after hearing statements from the victim's family.
Judd-Cooper, 29, of Milton, also entered a Kennedy plea to one count of abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult and was denied reconsideration of a two- to 10-year prison sentence by Chiles.
In delivering victim impact statements Friday, Hysell's sister, Jean Hogsett, and daughter, Angela Hysell, said both defendants kept them from seeing Hysell and would not let them to talk to him over the phone.
Hogsett said Cooper should receive no mercy because her brother did not receive any.
"I miss my brother. There's not a day goes by that I don't think of him. I'm just wondering what torture they put on John," she said. "God only knows what they did to him when they had him tied up. They beat him. He probably starved to death. Probably didn't give him no water to drink."
Angela Hysell said she was seeking justice.
"My life stopped when all this happened. I just wish that my dad could rest in peace today seeing everyone who is here for him," she said. "Don't let Rocco get any slack because my dad will never be back, and he needs to pay for it."
Cooper declined to make a statement prior to Chiles' denying the reconsideration.
Defense attorney Ray Nolan said Cooper was remorseful for what happened and has a limited criminal history. Nolan added Cooper had a very rough upbringing and was in and out of foster care throughout his childhood.
A work-related incident and pain pill prescription led him to struggles with drug dependency, he said.
Assistant prosecutor Lauren Plymale said the horrendous details of the crime combined with his lack of remorse called for the maximum 40 years sentence, although she added he deserves more, to which Chiles agreed.
"Mr. Cooper what you did was absolutely (horrendous). The torture of an incapacitated adult the way you did as long as you did is just incredible," he said. "Your lawyer said you are remorseful, but I haven't seen any remorse."
Chiles added he hoped the sentencing of both defendants could give the family peace.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.