A Michigan man who stabbed his 5-year-old stepdaughter to death and then burned her body will spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge ruled Friday.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk found Thomas McClellan guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree arson in the killing of Luna Younger, the Lansing State Journal reported.
A first-degree murder conviction carries with it a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole.
Draganchuk alone decided McClellan’s fate because his attorney, Patrick Crowley, requested a bench trial.
McClellan had been married to Victoria King for just three months when he stabbed her daughter to death and then set her body on fire on Nov. 1, 2016.
“What was so awful about Luna today that you had to kill her?” Detective Charles Buckland asked McClellan, who turned himself in hours after his stepdaughter’s charred remains were discovered by firefighters.
“What’d she do, Tom?” he asked again.
McClellan said he'd argued with King before she went to work and he headed to his room to sleep, but his nap was interrupted when Luna knocked on the door looking to be fed around 5 p.m.
The kindergartner told her stepfather she was hungry, and when he tried to make her leave, she sat down and wouldn’t budge, he said.
“I told her it wasn’t dinner time,” McClellan, 25, said.
Then he snapped.
“I think I was just that angry, after the whole day, just wanting to lay down and nap, she woke me up,” he said. “She wouldn’t go and it put me off the edge.”
McClellan grabbed Luna by the shoulder and pulled her onto the floor of his bedroom, where he sat on her to hold her down as he stabbed her in the chest, he told Buckland. Authorities later determined she had been stabbed at least five times.
“What’d she do when you stabbed her?” Buckland asked.
“She cried, and she coughed,” McClellan replied. “Not very long.”
McClellan later covered Luna’s body with blankets and set them on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence of the killing.
He also took a shower, packed a bag, discarded his cell phone, withdrew money from an ATM and bought a new phone before checking into a local motel under his real name, authorities said.
Draganchuk said she rejected Crowley's argument that McClellan's stabbing of Luna couldn't be both first-degree child abuse and first-degree murder, saying it is "simply not supported by law."
"What the defendant did on Nov. 1, 2016 will never be understood, no matter how many times (McClellan) gives his explanation for it," Draganchuk said before announcing her verdict. "It is simply inexplicable."
McClellan was quickly escorted from the room after he was found guilty. His sentencing is set for Aug. 23.
Following the verdict, King walked over McClellan’s family and embraced them, the Journal reported.