Sanders receives nearly maximum sentence in murder trial

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann
Michael Sanders' mugshot

Judge Larry Medlock sentenced Michael Sanders, 35, to nearly the entire maximum sentence after he was found guilty of the murder of Skyler Naugle last month.

Sanders was sentenced to 63 years with the Department of Corrections. Another 652 days was added to that following Medlock's revocation of his probation, which was related to a sexual battery case. Sanders was on probation for that and had another case out of Floyd County, driving while suspended, pending at the time of the murder in July 2017.

Naugle was found with a close-range gunshot wound to the back of his head, wrapped in a plastic tarp and buried in a shallow grave in a ditch on the property at which Sanders lived. Police say Sanders lied to them and Naugle's family during the course of the missing person investigation that preceded Naugle's body being found.

Medlock found the three statutory aggravating factors — that the harm caused to the victim was more than necessary to meet the requirements of the crime, Sanders' criminal history (which did not include his court martials while he was in the military) and that the murder violated his parole for another crime — applicable to add to the 55-year advisory sentence. He also found Sanders' efforts to conceal the crime and failure to tell investigators and the Naugle family the truth when they were searching for Naugle, and the lack of remorse from Sanders during the trial to be aggravating factors as well.

"The only thing I've seen from you so far, Mr. Sanders, is anger," said Medlock. "Mr. [Herbert] Walker (Sanders' attorney) asked me not to hold your lack of remorse against you because you were continuing to assert your innocence. I don't blame you for professing your innocence, but if it were my best friend, I'd be helping the police in any way I could to find the person who killed my friend, if it wasn't me."

Medlock referenced the anti-law enforcement comments recorded between Sanders and his half-brother, Anthony Fancher, while Sanders was in jail. Deputy Prosecutor Tara Hunt showed the profanity-laden clip during the hearing. She also entered into evidence a post he had made to his Facebook page that included YouTube link to a video of "Cop Killer," a notorious song by the rapper Ice-T, written in response to the Rodney King incident in the early 1990s and features explicit violence against law enforcement. The post was made the day before Naugle was believed to be murdered.

He also found the manner of Naugle's death an aggravating factor. Naugle was shot at close range to the back of the head, "execution-style."

"You don't have the power or authority to execute anyone in this county," said Medlock. "Only myself and Judge [Frank] Newkirk have the power to decide that. The community gave that power to us, not you."

Medlock said he found nothing that indicated a more merciful sentence be imposed.

"I'm sure your loved by your family and they will continue to support you, but I find no mitigating factors," he said.

Sanders does plan to appeal the conviction.

For more about this hearing, see an upcoming edition of The Salem Leader.

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