Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook said he knew 79-year-old Walter Boyuk for decades as an esteemed Columbus lawyer before he sentenced Boyuk on Monday for fatally shooting his wife in 2020 at Griggs Reservoir Park on the city’s Northwest Side
Boyuk pleaded guilty on Monday to involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence as part of a plea deal with Franklin County prosecutors, who dropped a murder charge.
At the recommendation of prosecutors and Boyuk’s attorneys, Holbrook sentenced Boyuk, who formerly had a law office in the Brewery District, to a minimum of 16 years in prison — what everyone in the courtroom acknowledged is likely a life sentence for him.
At his plea hearing, Franklin County prosecutors said that on October 22, 2020 Boyuk shot his wife, 75-year-old Kathleen Boyuk, three times in the torso, left her in the driver’s seat of their Honda car in a parking lot at Griggs Reservoir Park, and staged the scene to look like a robbery.
Boyuk then took a cab to the couple’s home in the 3800 block of Ridgewood Drive in Norwich Township near Hilliard, about 1½ miles from Griggs Reservoir. He called relatives to tell them Kathleen had been killed in a robbery — before he called 911 and reported to Hilliard police about 12:10 p.m. that day that his wife was missing, prosecutors said.
Lawyer: Boyuk can’t explain why he killed his wife of 55 years
One of Boyuk’s attorneys, Jeremy Dodgion, said at the hearing that Boyuk himself can’t explain why he killed his wife of 55 years. Known by many as “Kathie,” she had worked as the marketing and development director for Action for Children in Columbus, a free childcare referral and child educational resource organization, from 2003 to 2010.
Dodgion said he had extensive testing done on Walter Boyuk, including brain scans, but no signs of dementia were found that Boyuk’s cognition was around normal for his age.n
“We still are at somewhat of a loss, I know Walter is at a loss, for why he went down this road,” Dodgion said.
Dodgion told The Dispatch after the hearing that Boyuk was detached from reality at the time of the shooting.
Boyuk said in court he would not like to speak publicly about what happened.
“I would like to handle apologies and as to why directly with my family,” he said.
A lawyer representing the Boyuks’ two adult children, who were not present in court, said at the hearing the children did not want to make a statement, but had prepared a letter for their dad to be given to him after the sentencing.
Boyuk’s lie about a robbery quickly unraveled
Columbus police responded around 11 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2020 to reports of a shooting and a call about a woman slumped over in a car in a parking lot at Griggs Reservoir Park. Police found Kathleen Boyuk in the car, dead.
Prosecutors said police found shell casings and a wallet on the ground outside the car.
“Family members started receiving phone calls from Mr. Boyuk advising that Kathleen was dead from a robbery and that the dog had been stolen as well,” said Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Lenert. “They began to be suspicious of Walter.”
Columbus police and Hilliard police went to Boyuk’s home, Lenert said. Boyuk told officers his wife had gone to the park to walk their dog in the morning and she hadn’t returned home.
“When the police began asking him about her cellphone and whether the cellphone was there … Mr. Boyuk’s demeanor began to change,” Lenert said.
Detectives saw Boyuk put a cellphone they would later determine was Kathleen Boyuk’s in his back pants pocket, Lenert said. Police then arrested Boyuk and also found two spent shell casings in Boyuk’s pocket that matched those found at the scene of the shooting.
Holbrook sentenced Boyuk to an indefinite prison term of 16 years to 21½ years. Boyuk has more than two years of jail time credit.
Boyuk had been placed on house arrest, but his bond was revoked after he walked into a hair salon on March 18, 2021 with the intention of speaking to a witness.
One of Boyuk’s attorneys, Vicente Rivera, said at the time Boyuk did not intend to intimidate the witness. Dodgion said Monday that Boyuk was trying to apologize for dragging that person into this.
When Holbrook sentenced Boyuk on Monday, he said this is “one of the worst parts of my job … I’ve known you a long time.”
“I appreciate that judge,” Boyuk said. “Believe me, I’m sorry to be here.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus lawyer, 79, pleads guilty to fatally shooting wife in 2020