ASHTABULA, Ohio — John Richard Bove, the man charged with the death of 13-year-old Kara Zdanczewski from Ashtabula in May 2017, avoided the death penalty after he pleaded guilty in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court to a slew of charges relating to her death, according to a news release from the Ashtabula County Prosecutor’s Office.
Bove pleaded guilty on Feb. 15 to the following 13 counts as part of the original indictments: two counts of aggravated murder, four counts of murder, one count of rape, two counts of kidnapping, one count of felonious assault, two counts of tampering with evidence and one count of gross abuse of a corpse.
During his plea, Bove indicated to the court that he killed Zdanczewski because he was high on crystal methamphetamine, stating he injected more meth that day than he had ever used before, according to the news release.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Bove avoided the death penalty with the stipulation that he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bove apologized to Kara's family in court. Her father, Stanley Zdanczewski, said Kara was a “wonderful daughter who is sorely missed by everyone,” according to the release.
The charges he pleaded guilty to stem from the tragic day when Zdanczewski’s body was discovered on or about May 9, 2017, in a rural Saybrook Township field.
The prosecutor's office said this case represents another "horrendous and despicable crime perpetrated as a result of the rampant and prevalent methamphetamine use in Ashtabula County," according to the release.
The release further states that Ashtabula County is in dire need of a financial and other resources to do so, including federal and assistance to combat the problem.
Ashtabula County Sheriff Bill Johnson said the drug problem isn't unique to Ashtabula County, saying meth problems haven't gone away with some drugs coming back.
Johnson also states that most calls they go to deal with drugs in some way.
Previous reporting on events prior to her death
Stanley and Debra Zdanczewski told police that on May 9, 2017 "they had entrusted their 13-year-old daughter with their friend, Bove, while they resolved an argument they were having. Bove took Kara and left. They never returned."
An affidavit filed by an Ashtabula City Police Department officer on May 18, 2017 said Bove told investigators that Zdanczewski was ultimately killed and her body set on fire, over a $3,000 drug debt owed by her father, Stanley Zdanczewski.
The affidavit further details how Bove told investigators that he took Kara with the intent to trade her to safety to her father in exchange for the drug debt.
Zdanczewski's father told Judge Gary L. Yost that his daughter would want to say one thing to Bove, at which Stanley Zdanczewski turned to Bove and said "I forgive you."
As a result of the plea and sentence, the family and the community avoided details of her death that would have been revealed during the trial, the news release states.
The plea and sentence occurred with the consent of Zdanczewski's family and the Ashtabula Police Department.