WARSAW – For most of his 60 years, Joseph Mlyniec was lauded as a veteran, volunteer firefighter, Rotary and Town Board member and sheriff’s deputy.
Mlyniec’s facade of respectability was shattered in March when, fearing exposure of his hidden life, he fatally shot an acquaintance at his home.
On Wednesday, Mlyniec received a sentence of 15 years to life in prison, a term preordained when he pleaded guilty last month.
But the session in Wyoming County Court was the first chance Robert Irvine III’s friends and family members had to confront Mlyniec.
Irvine’s girlfriend and his sister blasted Mlyniec for preying on troubled young men, lamented that Irvine’s 10-year-old daughter will grow up fatherless and decried the sentence as far too light for “premeditated” murder.
“I hope your demons haunt you for the rest of your life. I hope you never seen the light of day in the free world again. You should be ashamed of yourself,” said Kim Schroth, Irvine’s older sister, spitting out the words. “You’re despicable.”
District Attorney Donald O’Geen said Mlyniec will be eligible for parole after 15 years but he hopes Mlyniec is never released.
Norman Effman, Mlyniec’s attorney, said his client did not act rationally in killing Irvine, 32, and was remorseful.
“Robert was a friend of mine for over 10 years, and I’ll have to live with that burden,” said Mlyniec, directly addressing Irvine’s loved ones, many of whom wore orange “Justice for Robbie” shirts.
Judge Michael Mohun, before passing sentence, said: “Robert Irvine was murdered because he threatened to tell the truth.”
That truth has spilled out in the months since Mlyniec killed Irvine on March 7 in the driveway of his Perry home.
Mlyniec, a retired Wyoming County sheriff’s deputy and Perry Town Board member at the time, previously had a sexual relationship with Irvine, prosecutors said. They said Mlyniec killed Irvine because he feared Irvine was a witness in an investigation into allegations of abuse committed by Mlyniec.
Prosecutors say Mlyniec over the past two decades had used his position of authority to groom and sexually abuse troubled young men.
Effman considered pursuing a defense that Mlyniec was emotionally disturbed at the time of the slaying, but ultimately his client pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. So Mlyniec’s sentence was predetermined, but Wednesday’s proceedings still crackled with the pain and anger of Irvine’s loved ones.
Christina King, Irvine’s girlfriend, said his brutal murder disfigured him to the point friends and family couldn’t properly say goodbye. She said she feels guilt that he died but she remains alive.
“He took the love of my life,” King said of Mlyniec.
Schroth read her own statement as well as letters from other relatives.
She recalled Irvine as “my little sidekick,” before detailing how Mlyniec insinuated himself into Irvine’s life and took advantage of him.
She and other family members said Mlyniec’s intentions were clear given he shot Irvine four times.
Stacy Irvine, Irvine’s stepmother, said she hopes Mlyniec will “rot in hell.”
Schroth also read a brief note from Irvine’s daughter, Brooklyn, who said she was sorry she ever called Mlyniec “Grandpa Joe.”
Effman, speaking next, said Mlyniec would benefit from mental health treatment in prison and he requested protective custody given Mlyniec’s career in law enforcement.
Mlyniec stared down for most of the proceedings before rising to apologize to the court and to the victim’s loved ones.
“I can’t try to explain what I did or didn’t do. But I’m so sorry, and I know, I know I can’t say anything,” Mlyniec said, before one audience member interjected: “You’re right, that doesn’t bring him back.”
As part of his plea, Mlyniec waived his right to an appeal. He also paid $7,884 to cover Irvine’s funeral costs.
Outside court, Robert Irvine Jr. said his son’s murder has left “an empty hole in our hearts.”
“An apology is not enough,” he said.