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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Stacey Sutera Murder Case

     Early in 2010 Robert McLaughlin, a 62-year-old retired U.S. Postal employee from Painesville, Ohio, a Lake County town in the northeastern part of the state, asked Stacey Sutera out for a date. The 37-year-old teacher who lived in Canfield, a suburban town located on the western edge of the Youngstown metropolitan area, informed McLaughlin that she had no interest in him romantically. The two had known each other fifteen years. McLaughlin gave no indication that he had been hurt and angered by the rejection. Stacey Sutera said she hoped the two could remain, if not friends, at least friendly acquaintances.

     Stacey Sutera's rejection of a much older man who had no reason to expect that he had any chance of developing a relationship with the young, attractive woman changed her life in a way she could not have predicted or imagined. The rejection turned this otherwise unremarkable man into a stealthy and insidious monster.

     Stacey Sutera's prolonged nightmare began on March 26, 2010 when someone used a key to scratch her car in the parking lot of a grocery store. Three months later the superintendent of the Columbiana School District started receiving emails about a sexually oriented website that falsely featured Sutera. The anonymous writer of the emails began sending messages to Sutera in which he threatened to ruin her reputation. These emails were signed, "Your Enemy For Life." During this period Stacey Sutera, who had remained in touch with McLauglin, spoke to him about her problem. He responded with sympathy and concern.

     On July 29, 2010 Stacey Sutera filed a report with the Canfield Police Department which detailed the Internet harassment. Sutera had no idea who hated her enough to wage such a malicious campaign against her. Following the police report her tormentor scratched a derogatory slur on her car and began harassing her with a series of prank telephone calls.

     In September 2010 Sutera received a fake used condom in the mail, a gag item sold online to people out for revenge. The following month her teaching colleagues received, through the mail, business cards bearing the teacher's name and address. The cards advertised Sutera's willingness to perform sexual acts for a fee. At this point it was obvious that Sutera's stalker had dedicated his life to ruining hers.

     Stacey Sutera's ongoing nightmare intensified on December 1, 2010 when her stalker poisoned her dog to death. A week later Canfield detectives learned that Robert McLaughlin had purchased the fake condom online and had created the sexually explicit websites designed to embarrass and scandalize Sutera. When police officers informed Sutera who had been stalking her she was stunned. What had she ever done to this man to incur his wrath? Why did he think she deserved to be treated like this?

     On December 8, 2010 detectives with the Canfield Police Department searched Mr. McLaughlin's home in Painesville. The officers discovered information linking the suspect to the malicious website, a mailing list of Sutera's colleagues, the phony sex act business cards, photographs of her and miscellaneous pornographic material. The next day detectives arrested McLaughlin on charges of pandering obscenity and menacing by stalking.

     Sutera, on the day of McLaughlin's arrest, filed for a civil protection order before Judge Eugene J. Fehr of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The judge granted the order which barred McLaughlin from possessing a firearm and prohibited him from any further contact with Sutera. The order would remain in effect until July 2015. In her affidavit in support of the protection order Sutera had written: "McLaughlin's actions are clearly designed to cause me mental illness and fear of physical harm. I live in constant fear. My dog has been killed. My daughter and I are in danger."

     Robert McLaughlin, on December 17, 2010, after eight months of stalking Stacey Sutera pleaded guilty in a Mahoning County Court to menacing by stalking. The judge sentenced him to six months in jail. Six months for ruining a woman's life. This judge had given Sutera just six months of protection from a malicious nutcase.

      Stacey Sutera, on January 8, 2011, filed a civil suit against McLaughlin claiming infliction of emotional stress, libel and invasion of privacy. The plaintiff sought $1.5 million in damages.

     A Mahoning County grand jury, in the spring of 2011, indicted Mr. McLaughlin on the felony charges of pandering obscenity and three counts of possessing criminal tools (his computer). That fall the defendant pleaded guilty to these charges, and on November 29, 2011, Judge Maureen A. Sweeney shocked Sutera, her family and friends by only sentencing this aggressively vicious stalker to five years of probation. McLaughlin was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service and fined $2,500. The judge ordered him to enroll in an anger-management program. He would also have to register in the county as a Tier-I sex offender.

     From Sutera's point of view Mr. McLaughlin's sentence amounted to a slap on the wrist. The fact he would not serve time behind bars guaranteed that he would continue his program of personal destruction. Sutera suffered from multiple sclerosis and ulcers and had nothing to look forward to but a future of worry and fear. Robert McLaughlin, a nobody and loser who couldn't handle being rejected by someone out of his league had ruined the life of a once productive mother and teacher. Anger-management? Community service? Probation? 
     On February 8, 2012, a neighbor found Stacey Sutera lying dead outside her Carriage Hill apartment. She had been shot at close range. That day a Mahoning County judge issued a warrant for Robert McLaughlin's arrest on the charge of capital murder. After harassing Stacey Sutera for almost two years, this stalker, who should have been in prison, waited for his 40-year-old victim to come out of her dwelling. 

     The day after he murdered Stacey Sutera, the 64-year-old McLaughlin used the same gun to kill himself at his mother's gravesite. No one knew why McLaughlin felt the need to take his life near his mother's grave. No one really cared. In McLaughlin's Painesville storage unit, investigators found a suicide note in which he had written out his plans to murder Sutera then kill himself. 

     Stacey Sutera had been powerless to protect herself from a man she knew would eventually kill her. She had reached out to the police and the courts for help and got nothing because local criminal justice practitioners were more interested in protecting Robert McLaughlin than Stacey Sutera.

      Was the sentencing judge so stupid that she thought an anger-management counselor could fix Robert McLaughlin? 


  1. Another case of media mangling the facts so that the truth gets lost. 15+ years of sucking the man dry of his money. The woman was as manipulating as you can get.
    She ruined his life first. As well as mine.

    1. it happened again...another man is dead

  2. I heard another report that she was shot by a shotgun and he killed himself by a 22 auto?

  3. Stacey was basically my stepmother. So, anonymous, I would appreciate it if you didn't spew your jealous lies. She was the kindest woman I have ever met and she loved my father so much. She never did anything to Robert. He was a family friend so she let him down as nicely as possible. How dare you speak of her like that. He put my family and hers through hell. He had different guns hidden in his home, in which he used to kill her and then himself.

    1. Please message me my name is Emily Telscher, I was very close to Stacey.

    2. This is her daughter and a lot of this is incorrect information. Please reach out if you have questions