WASHINGTON, Pa. - Nathan "Boo" Herring, 29, pleaded guilty Thursday to the May 1999 murders of two Franciscan University of Steubenville students and was sentenced to life in prison.
A co-defendant, Terrell Yarbrough, 28, convicted of the murders in November and also received a life sentence after a jury opted not to recommend the death penalty.
The two Franciscan University students - Aaron Land, 20, of Philadelphia and Brian Muha, 18, of Westerville, Ohio - were kidnapped from their McDowell Avenue apartment in Steubenville and driven in Muha's stolen Chevrolet Blazer to a remote section of U.S. 22 in Robinson Township, Pa., where each was led up a hill and shot once in the head.
Both Herring and Yarbrough were convicted in Jefferson County of the murders, but the Ohio Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions in December 2004, saying Pennsylvania had jurisdiction.
Yarbrough and Herring were convicted of other crimes in Ohio, and the Ohio Supreme Court let those sentences stand. Yarbrough was sentenced to 59 years in prison and Herring to 65 years. The murder sentences in Pennsylvania will be served concurrently with the Ohio sentences.
The families of Land and Muha gave impact statements to the judge prior to sentencing.
Kathleen O'Hara, Land's mother, had a statement read since she was out of the country Thursday. O'Hara said no sentence can ever atone for what Herring did.
"(Herring) ended a life of promise and hope. You took from me, my family and friends our joy, our hope, our love," she said in her statement.
Chris Muha, Brian's brother, told Herring what he did in May 1999 "broke the lives of some people for a long time, some forever." But he added that a lot of good has come out of it.
The Muhas have established scholarships in Brian's name at Franciscan University and programs to help inner city youth in the Columbus area get a good education.
"Kids are getting food. They are getting attention so they don't end up doing what you did," Chris Muha said.
Rachel Muha, Brian's mother, said she thinks daily of her son and remembers his goodness.
"How scared he must have been, how confused," Muha said of Brian. "How helpless he must have felt. How you held his life in your hands."
She challenged Herring to change for the better in prison.
Herring apologized to the Land and Muha families, saying that as time goes on he will feel worse.
Judge John DiSalle told Herring it was very sad what happened that day in May 1999.
"Four young men all about the same age, and two are gone," he said.