Former neighbor sentenced in slayings of couple


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former neighbor has been sentenced to decades in prison in the slayings of a couple during an attempted robbery at the victims’ home.

A Franklin County judge on Friday sentenced Kelly Dale Vokas, 43, to 37 years to life in the deaths of John Blanc, 77, and Susan Castore, 75, in October 2020, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Vokas pleaded guilty in December to murder, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated burglary in an agreement with county prosecutors who withdrew other charges including two counts of aggravated murder. The sentence imposed by Judge Michael Holbrook was the maximum possible on the charges.

A sheriff’s deputy testifying at the sentencing hearing said authorities called to the Prairie Township home after a 911 hang-up call saw the defendant shoving items in her purse and then trying to flee out the back door. In her purse they found the victims’ ID cards, a checkbook and a bag of coins, he said.

Entering the home, deputies found Blanc unresponsive in the first-floor bathroom with six stab wounds to his head and neck and Castore unresponsive in the basement with stab wounds and a rope tied around her head, neck and body, he said.

Vokas, who cried throughout the hearing, apologized to the victims’ families, saying she was not in her “right state of mind.” Defense attorney Francisco Luttecke said his client had an abusive childhood and was dealing with mental health issues and using drugs.

Julie Blanc, John Blanc’s daughter, called the couple an inspiration who lived their lives helping others.

“How can a human being been so cruel and take such evil actions towards an elderly couple that at many times had showed you kindness,” she said through tears.