Lucas Alexander Hartman, 24, of Westminster, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting death of his father two years ago and was sentenced May 3 in Carroll County Circuit Court to 40 years in prison.
Hartman told police he was protecting his mother from abuse when he shot his father, Stephen “Chip” Hartman, 49, on Dec. 12, 2020, but Deputy State’s Attorney Sandra Johnson, who prosecuted the case, said the accusations were unsubstantiated.
According to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, police received a report of a shooting at a home on Marydell Drive in Westminster at about 12:44 p.m., and found the elder Hartman shot in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the home about an hour later.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence with no time suspended, based on the premeditated and unprovoked nature of the crime, according to Carroll County State’s Attorney Haven Shoemaker, but defense attorney Seth Okin, a partner with Price Benowitz LLP, said he appreciated that Johnson was willing to work with him on a deal for Hartman.
“It’s not an easy case for judges to be willing to take,” Okin said. “You’re going to make a decision that’s never going to make anyone happy. Literally, no one will ever be happy. Because one side’s going to disagree with the other regardless of relationships, and we saw that in some of the statements that were made.”
Okin presented character evidence in hopes of a more lenient sentence. Hartman was very sociable, according to a letter from one of teachers, Okin said, and is not a threat to society according to two evaluations from doctors representing the prosecution and the defense, respectively.
Circuit Court Judge Fred Hecker considered the defendant’s age, demonstration of remorse for his actions, and character evidence when issuing the sentence, Okin said, adding that Hartman’s lack of a criminal record was likely also a factor in the sentencing.
“Since this is not a typical case, it’s hard to say what a typical sentence would be,” Johnson said.
Okin described Stephen Hartman as a controlling husband and father, constantly monitoring the household and making all decisions about who could come and go from the home. Johnson, who said Stephen Hartman was a computer gaming programmer, presented video court testimony from members of the Hartman family who live in Alaska, stating that Stephen Hartman was a kind man and a loving father.
“By all accounts of Chip’s family, he was just a loving father who was in a difficult marriage, and he was really just trying to do this the best he could for his son,” Johnson said.
Okin argued that the three members of the Hartman family who testified only met Lucas Hartman one or two times. The family had moved from Oklahoma to Westminster less than a year before the shooting, Johnson said.
The Hartmans were avid hunters and legally owned a number of firearms, which were stored in the home, Okin said, including the 9mm Ruger PC Carbine rifle that Lucas Hartman used to shoot his father.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
Okin has filed a motion to modify Hartman’s sentence, which Johnson said is common practice for this type of case, asking that the possibility of a review of the sentence be opened any time within the next five years.
Hartman’s sentence is likely to be reevaluated at a time when he has had a chance to demonstrate good behavior, participate in prison programs that show he is making the most of his time, and receive further mental health evaluations.