to 60 years
Wanda English Burnett
Fernbach Jr., 33, of Batesville, was sentenced to 60 years in
prison for two counts of Attempted Murder.
It only took seconds for Judge Carl Taul to say those words, but
the decision was not made on a whim. Ive thought about
this case a lot, Judge Taul began after both the defense
and prosecution presented their sides at the sentencing for Fernbach
held Tuesday, February 15 in Ripley County Circuit Court.
The judge said he had read the pre-sentence report, pages of mental
health records and heard testimony in the five-day jury trial.
What a tremendous tragedy this case is, he continued.
He said he couldnt restore the defendants mental well
being, nor the damage done to the victims in the case, Phillip
Cruser, who was shot in the head and Benjamin Dick, who was shot
in the hand by Fernbach.
The judge said mental illness is a problem society doesnt
deal with very well, saying the mental health system needs to
be looked at.
In this case, the judge looked at all sides and said, I
feel Mr. Fernbach is remorseful. However, he said he felt
confident that the circumstances (shootings) were likely to reoccur.
He said taking into account the defendants mental illness,
he considered him a threat to the community.
With that he sentenced Fernbach to 30 years on each count to be
served consecutively with no time suspended.
The sentence was more than double what defense attorney Mark Jones
had asked for. He asked the court to give his client 30 years
with 15 suspended.
The prosecutor asked for 75 years with none suspended.
The State is satisfied with the courts sentence,
Prosecutor Ric Hertel said after the sentencing on Tuesday. But,
he went on to say he wasnt necessarily pleased. This
sentence is significant, but there is still a fear that he (Fernbach)
will get out and commit something similar or even worse should
he stop taking his prescribed medications, Hertel stated.
Philip Cruser said he was tickled to death with the
sentence. Now I do feel like its over, he commented.
But, as Cruser testified just moments before the rendering of
the sentence, his life will never be the same.
Cruser was employed with Delta Faucet for 26 years and was winding
down to retirement when Fernbach randomly put a bullet in his
head, which is still there. Doctors are fearful to remove it because
of the location.
Cruser testified how he had worked hard to put money away for
retirement and now its all gone. He used the money to pay
medical bills. While Cruser had medical insurance from his company
for the first year after the incident, he then lost his job and
has to now pay 100 percent for it. He testified that it takes
more to pay his medical insurance every month than he draws on
disability and hes 100 percent disabled.
He has a list of medical conditions caused from the shooting and
has had to give up favorite pastimes such as riding his motorcycle.
At the sentencing, Cruser told the court, Id like
to think in 10 years hes (Fernbach) not walking the streets.
When the defense asked about monetary compensation Cruser might
be wanting, Cruser said it wasnt about that, even though
hes been out thousands of dollars, it was about Fernbach
not being able to hurt someone else. Theres nothing
he can do to fix me, Cruser said, But, theres
Benjamin Dick was not at the sentencing hearing, but was shot
in the hand by Fernbach. He testified during the trial that he
didnt know Fernbach and pleaded for his life as he struggled
with the man who eventually shot him.
You didnt deserve what happened that day, Fernbach
addressed Cruser and the court for the first time at the sentencing.
The defendant had not testified throughout the trial.
The defendant rambled about his own family and his feelings about
them and said, Im sorry I put you through that.
He recalled how he had feelings of paranoia and felt like someone
was out to get his family. He still had no explanation of why
he shot either man. He said he remembered going to the store,
exactly what he went to buy a 12-pack of coca-cola, and a pack
of cigarettes, but didnt know why he left the store, and
walked into the parking lot and fired the shots directly at two
Fernbach said he still feels at times there are people out to
He went on to say he knew he was going to do time for what he
had done and he knew it was wrong. But, he said at the time he
did it it was like a cloud. He could remember before
the shootings, and directly thereafter as he drove straight to
his home and told family members, then called 911.
The defendant said he now takes his medications. Throughout the
trial it was told he was not on the proper medications the day
of the shootings. When questioned by Prosecutor Hertel about taking
his medications, Fernbach said he was taking them at the time
and as prescribed. He admitted to trying marijuana. You
followed the doctors care to a T? asked the prosecutor.
I know I took the meds, Fernbach replied.
Fernbach said the day of the shooting he was sleep deprived. He
said he didnt get good care from the many doctors and hospitals
he sought help from. I got better care at the Ripley County
Jail than at UC the first time, he stated.
Again, Fernbach told how he believed people were trying to get
him and his family. He said he even called the FBI or DEA. But,
you shot people who werent at your house, the prosecutor
When Fernbach said he didnt know the answers to some of
prosecutions questions, the prosecutor said, Your
memory seems pretty good on some things...but very selective on
Getting the gun was the worst thing I could have done,
Fernbach said when questioned how he came to get it. He bought
it illegally, from the same person in Cincinnati where he obtained
marijuana and other pills.
Defense Attorney Mark Jones said the whole trial was about mental
illness and that the jury wasnt fully informed about the
ramifications of finding his client guilty, but mentally ill.
He said he didnt present the case as well as he could have
done. This wasnt my finest hour, he told the
Today was about accountability and responsibility for him
(Fernbach) and his actions. I dont believe that the status
of the mental health system was on trial today though at times
it felt like it, Prosecutor Hertel said. He continued, The
defense attorney spoke about his own inadequacies, but today wasnt
about that either. It was still about Fernbachs actions.
When attorney Jones talked about the cards being stacked against
his client, prosecution said that wasnt the case either.
Nothing was stacked against him. In fact, I believe that
it was to the contrary. But in the end the jury spoke and this
was their verdict, Prosecutor Hertel concluded.
Sheriff Tom Grills escorted Fernbach back to the Ripley County
Jail where he will stay until he is processed into the state system
and taken to another facility to serve his sentence.