Galion woman going to prison for her role in death of father-in-law

BUCYRUS — A Galion woman was sentenced to 59 months in prison on Friday for the role she played in the death of her father-in-law.

Marla K. Saunders, 37, will get credit for time she has already served in the Crawford County Justice Center awaiting the outcome of her case. She pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction and tampering with evidence in relation to the death of 68-year-old Frederick Saunders Sr. in September 2015. Charges of complicity to commit murder and kidnapping were dropped as part of her plea agreement with prosecutors.

According to Galion police, Frederick Saunders Sr. was taken by family members to the emergency room of the Galion Community Hospital on the night of Sept. 30 with multiple injuries that officials said were consistent with a beating. He was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.

Preliminary autopsy results from the Lucas County Coroner’s Office indicated Saunders Sr. died as a result of strangulation and blunt force trauma to the skull.

Frederick “Lee” Saunders, 36, admitted in August to killing his father during a heated argument at the home the family shared on South Union Street. He pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of kidnapping in the death of his father. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Marla Saunders was pregnant with twins at the time of her arrest and was released a short time later due to complications with her high-risk pregnancy. After giving birth to the twins, who are living with siblings in the care of family members, she was returned to jail.

Marla’s twin sister, Carla Willoughby, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and obstructing justice in December. As part of a plea agreement, she is to be sentenced to five years of community control at a later date.

Judge Sean Leuthold noted that if the family had not worked to cover up the crime and reported it in a timely manner, the couple’s sentences may have been different.

Crawford County Prosecutor Matthew Crall thanked the Galion Police Department, especially their detective bureau, along with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office including Detectives Chris Heydinger and Craig Moser, for all of their hard work on the Saunders case.

Marla Saunders Saunders

Staff report