CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A teenager who stabbed an 82-year-old neighbor to death in her house on Charleston's West Side in June 2009 was sentenced to 40 years in prison Wednesday, the maximum sentence allowed by law.
Thomas Mallo, now 15, was transferred to adult status when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in February. He admitted that he stabbed Phyllis Jean Phares 35 times in her house on Frame Street.
During Wednesday's sentencing, Phares' oldest daughter, Karen Morris, called Mallo a "sick animal" who murdered her mother without provocation.
"Thomas Mallo does not deserve to walk the streets of society ever again," Morris told Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster. "Please give my mother the justice she deserves."
Morris propped a photo of her mother next to the podium as she spoke. She said her mother was a vibrant, beautiful and loving person.
Turning to speak directly to Mallo as he sat at the defense table, she said he killed her mother for the thrill of it.
"You did not show one ounce of remorse for your sin. You are a cold-blooded murderer," she said. "May God have mercy on your soul, Thomas Mallo, because I don't."
After police arrested Mallo and charged him with Phares' murder, five adult relatives who also lived in the household were arrested and charged with felonies, many stemming from the squalid conditions of the home, which was riddled with feces, trash and cockroaches. All five have pleaded guilty to various felonies and been sentenced to prison.
Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said that when Mallo slit Phares' throat, he almost severed her head from her body.
"That is what [Morris and her husband] saw when they opened the door" and discovered Phares' body the next day, Akers said, showing the judge a gory crime-scene photo. "This is how she found her mother."
Akers dismissed the suggestion that Mallo's horrific home life provided an explanation for the grisly murder.
"There is no understanding this," she said. "Sadly, I know there are lots and lots of horribly abused children in this county. They don't do this."
Akers asked Webster to impose the maximum penalty. "The public good requires that Thomas Mallo be locked away for as long as possible," she said.
Mallo's lawyer, Kanawha County Public Defender George Castelle, urged Webster to consider the horrors experienced at home by Mallo during his young life.
He had been sexually, physically and emotionally abused, he said. He didn't elaborate, because Mallo had asked him not to discuss certain details in public, he said.