"Mistakes were made" says judge who released Kirkersville killer from jail

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"Mistakes were made." That's the admission Tuesday from the judge who granted early release to the man who killed three people on Friday.

Investigators said Thomas Hartless killed his ex-girlfriend Marlina Medrano, her co-worker Cindy Krantz and Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario.

The murders were the culmination of months of abuse against Medrano.

On March 23, Thomas Hartless was sentenced to 90 days in jail for three separate violent attacks on Marlina Medrano.

Twenty days later, for reasons still unknown, Licking County Judge Michael Higgins ordered him released early from jail.

One month later, Hartless fulfilled Medrano's worst fears, that he would "hurt her for good."

Courtroom video obtained by 10TV shows what happened during Hartless' sentencing hearing.

Hartless pleaded guilty to beating his girlfriend Marlina Medrano three separate times: December, January and March.

He admitted to repeatedly punching, kicking and choking her, even trying to run her over with his car as she ran from him.

She said he had taken her to the woods "where he dug a hole to put me in if I am not with him."

In court, Hartless let his attorney speak for him, telling the judge he had been attending counseling sessions and was on a new medication.

"It certainly is our hope and their hope that change of medication in addition to the continued counseling will certainly prevent this from happening again," said defense attorney Kristin Burkett.

Three rows back from the prosecutor, Marlina Medrano sat silently. In a handwritten letter to the judge, she wrote, "I have always intended to work with and help Tom with his anger issues...I never intended Tom to be jailed for his actions, rather, it was a cry for help."

"I am not trying to validate why he acted the way he did," she wrote. "Tom has a severe mental disorder. With intense therapy, medication compliance and lifestyle changes, I am most confident we can and will overcome our struggles."

"Please allow me to elaborate my stance in its simplicity. Tom would never abandon me if I were to fail to an incapacitating condition. He would provide my needs. This is why I continue to love and support him."

Higgins sentenced Hartless to a total of 120 days in jail, with 90 days suspended.

Higgins closed with a warning to Hartless not to re-offend and with this statement to Medrano: "No woman should live in an atmosphere of violence. Those days are long gone. You don't have to do that. You have choices."

On May 5, Medrano went to police saying Hartless had beaten her twice more, and that she feared for her life. That case was still being reviewed for charges on May 12, when Hartless took her life and three others, including his own.

Tuesday Judge Higgins told 10TV immediately after Friday's murders, he ordered a review of the Licking County Municipal Court's handling of this case.

He said when he realized that he had signed the judicial release for Hartless, he said out loud, "How could this have happened?"

He says the results of the investigation into the case will be made public.

He promises it won't be a whitewash - he said, "Mistakes were made over here," and "it's important for the families and the public to understand what happened."

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