No relief for family of Darrell Willoughby in Brizzi verdict
Willoughby was murdered in 1991
Last Updated: 46 days ago
INDIANAPOLIS - On Wednesday, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi breathed a sigh of relief as the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not pursue criminal charges of bribery against him.
There was no relief, however, for Richard Willoughby, whose family thinks his brother's killer saw an early release thanks to Brizzi.
"It's a scar on our hearts that my brother is not here," Willoughby said. "And they just ripped out our hearts and held it in front of our faces as we are dealing with this."
Richard Willoughby's brother Darrell was murdered in 1991. Darrell's wife, Paula, was found guilty of that murder and was originally sentenced to 110 years in prison. Paula's boyfriend and co-conspirator Douglas Stueber took a plea bargain and got 45 years behind bars. The alleged hit man, Kevin Spohr, was found not guilty.
In 1996, on appeal before the Indiana Supreme Court, Paula's sentence was reduced to 70 years. And in 2009, her sentence was modified to 40 years.
The hitch in all this, Willoughby said, is that beginning in 2006, Paula's father, Harrison Epperly, began donating to Carl Brizzi's campaigns -- eventually donating a total of $29,000. Paula is now free.
"Our family … just because we don't have any money and we can't buy our way out of stuff, doesn't mean we don't have the same rights as someone who has millions and billions," Willoughby said.
Brizzi eventually returned the campaign contributions, but his chief deputy David Wyser, who helped arrange Paula's sentence modification, and who received a $2,500 dollar contribution from Epperly, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge and is awaiting sentencing.
This week, Brizzi told RTV6 he ran his office with integrity, not with his hand out.
"We knew we didn't do anything wrong," Brizzi said. "But sometimes that doesn't matter. Sometimes innocent people are prosecuted. We are grateful and blessed that we had the people and the resources to fight back."
Willoughby said he doesn't know how to fight back now. He just wishes U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett had obtained an indictment against Brizzi.
"Let a jury decide," Willoughby said. "Why not? Let a jury decide. You got enough on this guy."
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett issued a statement saying there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brizzi committed the crime of bribery.
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