Joseph Meyers sentenced to 23 years to life for killing David O'Dell

BATH — An angry and unapologetic Joseph A. Meyers lashed out at investigators and prosecutors Friday prior to being sentenced to spend 23 years to life in prison for first-degree murder in the fire death of his friend David N. O'Dell last year.

Meyers, who potentially faced life in prison without the possibility of parole, was sentenced by Steuben County Court Judge Joseph W. Latham Friday morning.

The 45-year-old Wayland resident and former owner of Loon Lake Services was convicted by a Steuben County jury in May of nine criminal counts, including first and second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson, conspiracy, attempted insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

Meyers blasted the prosecutor, Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, during a pre-sentencing statement that lasted for the better part of an hour. Baker, Meyers said, “has destroyed my life.”

"I have been convicted on lies and innuendos," continued Meyers, who read from a written statement and remained seated alongside his defense attorneys, Christopher Tunney and Peter Glanville.

Meyers said of Baker, “(He) violated my rights and lied in many ways” to the trial jury.

"I did not start a fire at that house. I did not do anything at that property," Meyers added.

Meyers' sentences on the other counts will run concurrently with the 23 years to life term. Latham sentenced him to 20 years to life for each of the arson counts and 20 years to life for second-degree murder. He was given 1 and a third to four years for falsifying business records and 2 and a third to seven years for attempted insurance fraud.

The prosecution said Joseph Meyers conspired with his wife Iryn Meyers, to kill the 60-year-old O'Dell by setting fire to O'Dell's New Galen Road house on Feb. 15, 2016. Authorities said the motive was to collect some $140,000 in insurance payouts. During the two and half week trial, the state called 34 witnesses and offered more than 120 exhibits. Investigators said the fire was set in the basement of the New Galen Road house and that Meyers used an accelerant to start the blaze.

Meyers has 30 days to appeal his convictions. Tunney said an appeal will be filed almost immediately.

Baker, arguing for the maximum sentence, called Meyers a remorseless killer who burned O'Dell alive. Baker said no one can imagine “the horror Mr. O’Dell must have gone through.”

"We have justice today," said Baker, who called the crime and investigation "a difficult case which was made to look like the classic accidental fire."

Baker had blunt words for Meyers.

"He has no place in a civilized society," Baker said. "He will do anything, to anyone, for any reason."

At one point Baker angrily objected to a portion of Meyers' statement. It came after Meyers raised the issue of sexual abuse allegations in the O'Dell family. Baker said that was the first time in his career, involving thousands of cases, that he has objected during a sentencing statement.

Baker said he expects Meyers to spend at least 20 years in prison before he is even considered for parole.

Joseph Meyers did not take the witness stand during his trial, although jurors heard several of Meyers' recorded conversations from the Steuben County Jail. So Friday's statement before sentencing was his first public comment since the day after fire, when he told a newspaper reporter, "I can't believe that he's gone."

He offered a rebuttal to much of the prosecution's case and a contrasting version of the events leading to the blaze, which burned the New Galen Road house to the ground. Meyers pinned the blame on O'Dell, saying he was careless around fires, was anxious to sell his home and was hearing voices that told him to burn the house down.

Meyers said he and Iryn originally went to New Galen Road on Feb. 15 for some pain medication. He said they went back to the house later that night to unfreeze some pipes and discovered that O'Dell had been in the basement.

"David started the fire in the wood burning stove (in the basement)," Meyers said.

Meyers called the overall fire investigation an "abomination" but said he agreed with a Steuben County fire investigator that listed "undetermined" as the cause of the fire.

Meyers ridiculed the prosecutor’s theory for the motive, saying Iryn never personally made a claim. He said the life insurance policy on David O’Dell was designed to cover future burial costs, while the insurance payout on the house would have gone to the O’Dell family. The only money that would have come to the couple was coverage for Iyrn’s possessions that were in the house and were destroyed in the fire, Meyers said.

Meyers described O'Dell as a "close friend for 33 years" who he said he loved "like a brother."

"All I ever did was help him," said Meyers, noting he employed O'Dell at Loon Lake Services for many years, looked after him after he was hospitalized, and helped him maintain his family home in Wayland.

But he also portrayed his friend as someone who suffered from psychotic episodes, was a hoarder and was unable to properly care for himself or his property.

Meyers said he did not coerce or trick O'Dell into selling the house to Iryn, contending that on O'Dell's 55th birthday, "He asked me if I wanted to buy his house."

Meyers suggested that, contrary to the statements of family and prosecutors, O'Dell did not have good feelings about the house and was anxious to be rid of it.

"He said there were bad memories in that house," Meyers said of O'Dell.

Baker said Meyers continues to show no remorse for the murder, and he said speaking ill of the dead and offering excuses and lies exposes Meyers as “a coward.”

Perhaps Meyers’ most notable accusations were against the grand jury process that led to indictments against him and his wife. Less than three weeks before the start of Iryn Meyers’ trial on Aug 8, Joseph Meyers accused Baker, State Police investigators, and Steuben County Public Defender William J. Kelley, who represented Iryn Meyers at the start of the case, of “coercing” his wife into making “false statements” to the grand jury, in exchange for agreeing not to prosecute her for first-degree murder.

Meyers also accused a grand jury member of misconduct, saying the female juror disclosed confidential information from the proceedings to outside sources. He said he learned of the alleged misconduct from an “Amish” friend who received some of the information, and in turn told Meyers about it during a visit at the Steuben County jail.

Law enforcement sources say Iryn Meyers provided a full account of the crime to the grand jury, including testifying that Joseph Meyers intentionally started the fire. A law enforcement official told The Spectator that Iryn Meyers passed a polygraph test. In addition, law enforcement sources say Iryn Meyers’ sworn grand jury testimony was consistent with video surveillance footage from Joseph Meyers’ business and cell phone records of the couple during the final hours before the fire was discovered.

Iryn Meyers, who is now represented by Conflict Defender Brenda Smith Aston and David A. Hoffman, has pleaded not guilty to all counts, including second-degree murder, arson, attempted insurance fraud and conspiracy.