By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — A man who attacked his wife and her father leading to the father's death was sentenced Monday.
Scott Atherton, 37, received a 19 1/2-year aggregate sentence on charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated battery, domestic battery and interference with reporting of a crime for the Dec. 9, 2012, incident that claimed the life of 66-year-old Douglas Gorbett.
According to a probable cause affidavit, police responding to a 911 call in the 600 block of Ruddle Avenue from Atherton’s wife found her and her father with visible punch and kick wounds. Both were transported to the hospital to be treated for their injuries.
Atherton’s wife told detectives that Atherton attacked the two in front of their children, and intentionally disconnected the house phone line to keep the family from calling 911.
Gorbett suffered a heart attack from the beating, which was described as "savage" by deputy prosecutor Michael Chambers. The man was revived but languished at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital for nearly a month before succumbing to injuries believed to be a direct result of the attack by Atherton.
Atherton pleaded guilty in May and as part of the agreement, the original charge of murder was reduced to voluntary manslaughter, a Class B felony.
At the sentencing hearing Monday, Atherton and testifying family members blamed his alcoholism, and said alcohol could be blamed for each of Atherton's run-ins with the law, including a prior felony conviction of operating while intoxicated. Atherton has three children, and his family asked Circuit Court 4 Judge David Happe for leniency so he could return to being a father after treating his alcoholism.
Chambers said he saw inconsistencies even in the guilty plea. Atherton claimed to have blacked out during the attack but still disconnected the phone to keep the victims from calling police and the beating was witnessed by the children. While the attack was over in an instant, the victims will be haunted by the scene the rest of their lives, Chambers said.
"We'll no doubt see the ramifications of this crime for a long time," Chambers said.
The surviving victim of the attack was scheduled to testify at the hearing Monday but was absent for an unknown reason. According to court discussions, Atherton's children have been turned over to Child Protective Services for the time being.
Happe said he recognizes Atherton's remorse and desire to recover from alcoholism, but determined the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigation, and handed down the sentence.
"The choices you make have consequences," Happe said. "You had numerous chances to address your problem with alcohol before and never took it seriously enough."
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