A 29-year-old Fraser man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the brutal stabbing and murder of a Macomb Township woman.
Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Peter J. Maceroni sentenced Joseph T. Reiner to life in prison without parole and ordered him to pay more than $8,000 in court costs and restitution to the victim's family.
Reiner was found guilty Sept. 14 of first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder and home invasion related to the stabbing and subsequent death of 69-year-old JoAnn Eisenhardt on .
“To feed your (heroin) habit, I am convinced you did these crimes, as were the 12 people who sat behind you,” said Maceroni. “People ask me as a judge, 'Do you believe in the death penalty?' And my response is, ‘I believe in the death penalty only for animals.’ You fit that category.”
Howard Eisenhardt, the victim's eldest son, asked Maceroni to "throw the book" at repeat offenders like Reiner.
“What bothers me the most is you, you little coward, took my mom’s future,” he said, looking directly at Reiner. “The future she had with all the grandkids and great-grandkids and some that are still coming. We will always search for closure, but we will never ever understand how something so simple, so caring, so easy-going, so laidback can cross the path with something so ugly and evil, like you.”
Unlike previous court appearances, Reiner chose not to cover his jailhouse tattoo – a pair of devil horns on his forehead – for the sentencing.
Speaking for the first time since his arrest, Reiner told the courtroom, "I'm not the one who did this," but added that he does knew the identity of the real murderer although he refuses to give the name to police.
"I'm going to track him," he said. "I’m going to follow him everywhere through the system. You guys can't possibly give me any more time than I’m going to get today, because I’m getting natural life, so I hope I can bring retribution not just for myself, but for the family and for JoAnn Eisenhardt and her spirit."
Howard Eisenhardt said he wasn't surprised by Reiner's profession of innocence, but didn't believe a word of it.
For Howard, his brothers Jim and Joe, and more than a dozen friends and family who have been present in the courtroom since Reiner was first charged, the sentencing was "the first big step in closure" and a chance to step off the "emotional roller coaster" the family has been on since the attack.
"Our lives will forever be shattered," said Howard Eisenhardt, reading from the family's victim impact statement. "Both my brothers and myself will forever have an overwhelming sense of guilt that we weren’t there when you came running through the front door to protect our mom."
On the morning Feb. 23, 2011, Reiner kicked in the door of Eisenhardt's Fairchild Road home, stabbed her in the neck with two steak knives and fled with $2 worth of stolen jewelry.
Hitching a ride with one of Eisenhardt's neighbors, Reiner eventually made his way to Grosse Pointe Farms, where he broke into two more homes and stole a car he later used to lead police on an almost 100-mile car chase through New Jersey, Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo told the jury during the trial.
Eisenhardt died nearly seven months later from what Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz testified as complications from injuries inflicted during the attack.
She was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, Sunday school teacher, Red Hat lady and 20-year breast cancer survivor.
"Our mom will always be surrounded by angels and she continues that today," Howard Eisenhardt said.