ANDERSON, Indiana — An Indiana man who used a belt to strangle his longtime friend -- a jail officer and former Marine -- after a drunken altercation at a campfire was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.
Joseph M. Hartley will serve 10 years in the Indiana Department of Correction for felony battery that resulted in the death of Uriah Wilson.
Hartley accepted a plea agreement on Nov. 3. He was originally charged with murdering Wilson, 29, after a violent altercation between the two men who were drinking around a campfire on Dec. 7, 2017.
The men were friends at Pendleton Heights High School before Hartley moved to Germany after the two graduated.
An expert witness said it takes a person four to five minutes to die from strangulation.
Wilson’s mother, Louisa Wright, read a prepared statement during the hearing. She said her son served two tours as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan only to come home and have his life senselessly and maliciously stolen by Hartley.
Her only solace is the fact she “will hold him in heaven again one day,” she said.
Lawrence Wilson, Wilson’s father, said his son was an independent and strong-willed man who used his hair, from Mohawks to a Viking cut, as a way to express his personality. He described his son as a best friend and said they talked and sent text messages to each other every day and frequently ate lunch together.
Lawrence Wilson said there would be “no winners in this” and that he wanted the judge’s sentence to reflect the fact that his son was killed violently and intentionally, but he made no recommendations on the length of sentence Hartley should receive.
“I will leave that up to the judge,” he said.
More than 50 people attended the sentencing hearing. More than half a dozen of those were from the Madison County Jail where Wilson was a correctional officer. Seating was limited in the courtroom and several officers were directed to sit in the jury box to keep from blocking doorways.
Hartley also addressed those present prior to his sentence. He said he loved Hartley and said he was sorry for causing his death. Hartley became very emotional, making it difficult to understand what he was saying.
“Whatever happens, I’m going to do the best I can, because that is what Uriah would have wanted,” he said.
In her closing argument, Madison County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mary Hutchison told the court she knew Wilson personally and, while many people provided information that Hartley was a “peaceful” man, she wanted to remind the judge that, in the end, he killed his friend.
Defense lawyer Bryan Williams said Wilson and Hartley were friends because they shared so many similarities.
“There was a reason Uriah and Joe were such good friends,” he said. “He’s a great guy, fun-loving guy, good guy, things obviously just went terribly wrong that night. No one will ever know what happened, but clearly there was a fight between two friends.”
Williams said he has never been involved in a case where the defendant was found performing CPR on the person he was accused of killing.
“I’ve never had that,” he said. “That speaks volumes about this case.”