A 42-year-old man who severely beat 81-year-old former monk Eugene Fitzsimmons and left him profusely bleeding inside his car outside a west Mesa halfway house in early 2011 was sentenced to 21 years in prison for aggravated assault and attempted murder on Monday.
And Maricopa County Superior Court judge Susan Brnovich was frustrated that she could not have imposed a harsher sentence on Henry Eric Young, because he had prior felony convictions of sexual assault, sexual battery and arson in Ohio. However, the nature of the crimes there did not fit the same felony statutes in Arizona, prohibiting the tougher sentence.
Young will first be eligible for early parole in 2029.
However, a bill progressing through the Arizona legislature proposed by Rep. Adam Driggs (R-Phoenix), Senate Bill 1151, could change all that in the future and allow stiffer sentences against those who have committed violent crimes in other states.
Fitzsimmons, who was found badly beaten inside his car outside the halfway house in the 700 block of West First Avenue and South Horne on Jan. 11, 2011, died March 31 from an antibiotic-resistant infection while in the hospital; the infection, however, could not be tied to his injuries. The infection was ruled as the cause of his death, but the manner was undetermined, according to information from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Fitzsimmons’ injuries included a broken rib, collapsed lung and bleeding on the brain, but Mesa police said the time of the crime, he was expected to live.
Hours after Fitzsimmons was discovered inside his car, Young was arrested walking along a nearby street with blood on his pants and swollen hands. Witnesses saw Young leave the halfway house close to where he parked the car.
Young, who was living with Fitzsimmons at the time of the beating, first refused to answer questions and cooperate with police, and later changed his story a number of times throughout the course of questioning. He ultimately told detectives that he had passed out drunk in the victim’s home on the night of the assault and awoke to find the victim attempting to sexually assault him at gunpoint.
Young claimed that he performed a sexual act on the victim and then discovered that the victim was not in fact holding an actual gun, at which point he “lost it” and beat up Fitzsimmons. Young went on to recount that he drove the victim to an ATM at a bank in an attempt to get money out of the victim’s account, and later abandoned the victim in the car, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Fitzsimmons, who lived in the 7300 block of Baywood Avenue off of 74th Street in east Mesa, was described by his neighbors as a friendly and quiet person who liked to help people.
Ron Brewer, Fitzsimmons’ neighbor in the mobile home retirement neighborhood, said on Monday that he was glad to hear that Young got sentenced, but that it should’ve been for longer.
“I think it should be 21 years without parole,” Brewer said. “I believe he killed a guy. He needed to be put away forever, but at least he’ll be off the streets for a while. Yes, the infection may have caused Eugene’s death, but what caused that? Eugene just didn’t fall down.”
Fitzsimmons, a former brother in the Society of Mary, who neighbors said counseled teen boys and often allowed men who needed help to live at his house, had taught at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio from 1960-62 and from 1975-80, according to information from the Diocese of San Antonio. After Fitzsimmons was transferred to Hawaii, he left the Marianists about 2002 and later lived in California with his brother, according to information from Ed Loch, archivist for the San Antonio diocese.
“This defendant will pay an appropriately severe penalty for his savage and vicious assault against an elderly member of our community,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a released statement. “Today’s outcome underscores the commitment of my office to hold criminals accountable for their actions and to safeguard the public from violent offenders who do not belong in civil society.”
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