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The Journal Gazette

  • Reinders

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 7:37 pm

Murderer sentenced to 70 years

Rebecca S. Green The Journal Gazette

Diane Woods’ hands were the thin, delicate hands of the aged: liver spots, bulging veins and slender fingers.

And they were nowhere near able to defend the diminutive 78-year-old woman from the raining blows of the fireplace poker wielded by 23-year-old, 5-foot-10, 245-pound Zachary D. Reinders as he attacked her inside her home in August.

The crime scene photos show those slender hands – which would no longer soothe more grandchildren or cuddle great-grandbabies – broken and bleeding, with compound fractures so severe, they were gloved inside her coffin.

The attack netted Reinders a wallet, some cigarettes, and a television set in August. On Monday, it brought him a 70-year sentence for murder and robbery.

All that spared him life in prison without the possibility of parole was his timely decision in November to go ahead and admit what he did, pleading guilty to murder, felony murder and robbery causing serious bodily injury.

Woods’ family sat in the courtroom, packed together closer than the seats required, and waited for their turn to speak. They listened to Reinders’ mother tearfully tell the court how much she failed her son, maybe setting him on the path that led to Woods’ door.

"His life’s been hell," Patricia Martinez said. "He never had a fair shake."

Martinez went on to describe how she battled addictions, watched her husband physically abuse Reinders, and ultimately lost custody of him and a sibling. Both her children aged out of the foster care system, she said.

"I couldn’t get my life together to stop doing drugs," she said. "The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree."

She turned to Woods’ family.

"I’m very sorry to your family," she said.

Woods’ granddaughter, Heather Moster, told Reinders she’d love to sit there and "bash" him, but instead decided to speak about how wonderful her grandmother was, about how Woods just missed meeting Moster’s baby son, born shortly after her death.

"She was a genuinely sweet and down-to-earth person," Moster said. "She was full of life. And the fact that it was taken over something so meaningless kills me.

"Our lives are not the same and never will be."

Woods, a widow and retired legal secretary, talked daily to her family. When she missed an afternoon phone call with her sister, her son went over to check on her.

Inside her mobile home at 5721 LeSteele Blvd., he found her battered body, lying in a pool of blood by the front door. Reinders lived in a trailer just a few doors down.

While prosecutors and police were processing the scene that afternoon of Aug. 8, Reinders was using Woods’ bank cards on a shopping spree – buying a new hat, a PlayStation, a video game and some shoes.

"The victim is lying dead while he’s on his shopping trip," said Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Steve Godfrey.

Godfrey told Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck that Reinders initially denied any involvement in the crime. He was inextricably tied to it, however, by Woods’ DNA found on his bloody shoes that were stashed at his mother’s home.

When it was his turn to speak, Reinders told Woods’ family he was terribly sorry for what he had done, and knew there was nothing he could do to take their pain away.

"I hope I can bring you a sense of closure today," he said, asking for the chance to return one day to his three children as a changed man.

In sentencing Reinders, Surbeck specifically considered the brutality of the crime he committed. He ordered the charge of felony murder to be merged into the murder charge. Felony murder is causing the death of another individual during the commission of another crime.

The robbery charge was reduced from robbery causing serious bodily injury for purposes of sentencing.

Surbeck sentenced Reinders to 60 years on the murder charge and another 10 years on the robbery. He ordered the sentences to be served one after another, for a total of 70 years in prison.

rgreen@jg.net