A Champaign County teen who claimed another personality killed his father’s longtime, live-in girlfriend was sentenced to at least 28 years in prison on Tuesday.
Donovan Nicholas, 16, was sentenced to three years for a gun specification, but received a sentence of 25 years to life for the slaying. He will not be eligible for parole until 2046.
Nicholas was 14 at the time the of the crime, but was tried as an adult.
He was found guilty in Champaign County Common Pleas Court of aggravated murder in the April 6, 2017 death of Heidi Fay Taylor, 40, who was his surrogate mother.
Family members described Taylor as intelligent, ambitious, kind, compassionate and selfless.
“She was never afraid to lend a helping hand to anyone in need no matter the situation,” an unidentified, family member said.
Nicholas was accused of stabbing Taylor more than 60 times and later shooting her in their home. Taylor was Nicholas’ surrogate mother, according to court testimony.
In a 9-1-1 phone call obtained by the Springfield News-Sun, Nicholas can be heard telling dispatchers that another personality killed Taylor.
“I just killed my mother,” Nicholas can be heard saying on the recording. “ …it wasn’t me who killed her. It was Jeff. Jeff. I’m sorry.”
Nicholas maintained that story in court Tuesday. Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio quizzed him on why he wore the same clothes as “Jeff the Killer,” dyed his hair like his, and carved his face into a smile just before the killing like the character’s face looks.
“Before we distinctly split, I liked Jeff the Killer, I was obsessed with Jeff the Killer,” Nicholas told the judge in a staccato, emotionless voice. “Jeff became a problem when he started doing things I didn’t want him to do — destroying my room, stabbing walls.”
He told the judge he had loved Taylor. She had, however, taken his phone away, which meant he could no longer communicate with his girlfriend who lived out of state.
Champaign County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Talebi asked the court for life without the possibility of parole.
“This was a prolonged attack that took place in different parts of the house,” Talebi said.
Nicholas spoke in court and asked for help.
“I know the court has stated, has said that my insanity is not a reasonable defense but I would like to request some treatment,” Nicholas said.
The teen wants help so his family won’t be afraid of him if he ever leaves prison.
“I mean his father is very much backing him. The rest of the family you know has great fondness and love for him as well, but his sister did say she didn’t really want him released because of concerns,” Defense Attorney Darrell Heckman said.
Because of his young age and his conviction in an adult court, Nicholas will initially be imprisoned in a special wing for juveniles in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Correctional Reception Center in Orient.
Heckman plans to appeal the case. He argues that the teen should not have been tried as an adult. He has 30 days to file an appeal.
The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.
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