A man in Ohio was sentenced to life imprisonment and will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison for beating a pastor’s daughter to death in 2018.
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Deborah Turner ordered Thursday for Jamal Kukla, 29, to serve life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years for murdering the 31-year-old Jasmine Washington, authorities said.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said Kukla beat Washington to death in September 2018 using a garden tool in Slavic Village. After that, he reportedly dragged and hid the victim’s body behind the church steps and fled the scene.
Prosecutors said the two did not know each other before the fatal incident. An employee of the church found the body several days later. Washington’s body was under a broken set of stairs behind the Broadway Christian Church, covered with branches, Cleveland.com reported.
“In 2018, Jamal Kukla brutally murdered 31-year-old Jasmine Washington in Slavic Village. After 2 years of searching for the killer, the Cleveland Police received a sample of Kukla’s DNA which matched the evidence collected at the crime scene,” County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said following the verdict. “I hope after today’s verdict, the victim’s family and friends can finally feel justice has been served.”
Kukla was taken into custody on May 27, 2020. “More and more, familial analysis positively links DNA evidence from a crime scene to a suspect, providing investigators with leads that crack a case,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said following Kukla’s arrest. “I’m thankful that our Bureau of Criminal Investigations team was able to assist our local and federal partners in solving this brutal homicide.”
Kukla reportedly did not apologize or address the court during the hearing on the advice of counsel.
“In her last hours, she was faced with brutality and terror, alone with someone intent on doing her harm, and the thought of that is unbearable, and I’m haunted by the horror of it all,” Washington’s stepmother said in the courtroom video obtained by Cleveland Fox affiliate WJW, as per Law & Crime.
Meanwhile, the victim’s father, Rev. James Washington, reportedly said that though he forgave Kukla for killing his daughter, he will never forget.
“She might have had some challenges,” Rev. Washington reportedly said, “but she was loved. She will not be forgotten.” Rev. Washington also asked Judge Turner to give Kukla a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“I’ve heard you, but what you’ve asked this court to do, this court does not have the authority to do,” the judge responded to the request, stating why she could not prevent Kukla from ever being paroled.
Kukla’s defense attorneys reportedly said they plan to appeal the verdict and sentence.