JACKSON – The Michigan Parole Board will hold a public hearing on Thursday, June 14, 2018 to consider the possible commutation of sentence for John William Lonchar.
Lonchar, and two others, were convicted of first-degree murder, with Lonchar’s conviction in 1978. The murder took place in Oscoda in 1976.
Lonchar was sentenced to a term of life in prison, with no chance of parole, for the crime, though commutation could give him a chance for parole.
According to staff from the Michigan Department of Corrections the hearing will be held at 9 a.m. at the T-100 Training Center; G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.
Edwin M. Heap, Member of the Michigan Parole Board, will conduct the hearing under the provisions of MCLA 791.244 prior to any recommendation for executive clemency by the Parole Board.
This is not the first time that Lonchar applied for commutation of his sentence. He also applied in 2009, 2013, 2015, and last year, according to Communication Representative Holly Kramer
Kramer said a successful commutation would lead the way for the potential for parole for Lonchar.
“It would make someone parole eligible, and that is something that needs to be approved by the governor,” she said.
According to Kramer, a person who is seeking commutation can have an investigation by a parole board, which then conducts a public hearing and prepares a report for the governor. She said the board could make a recommendation to grant a commutation or deny it, but ultimately it is up to the governor.
She said even if Gov. Rick Snyder approved the commutation on Lonchar’s sentence, it would then be up to a parole board on whether or not to grant him parole. She said commutation of a sentence should not be confused with a pardon for a crim.
“A pardon is a completely separate process,” she said.
According to information from Oscoda Press records, Lonchar was convicted of murder on Aug. 30, 1978 in the shooting death of Danny Christian, 27, of Lennon, which occurred in September of 1976.
Two others in the case were convicted of first-degree murder, including Gary McLellan and Frederick Tomkins, both of Bay City, who were convicted of the same charge in 1977.
According to archives, Lonchar assisted in the murder in the preparation of the crime of larceny. Oscoda Township Police Department officers found the body of Christian, who had been reported missing five days earlier, in a wooded area south of Oscoda High School, having been shot to death. Christian and his father were in the Oscoda area fishing, and he was reported missing after he went for beer but did not return.
Christian was killed by four pistol wounds to the head, and a fifth to the chest.
Police investigation found Christian’s truck outside the Office Bar, and his wallet was found under the US-23 bridge over the AuSable River by a fisherman, with $40 missing. A search for the .22 pistol used in the murder was also conducted in the river, but the weapon was never recovered.
According to police, a waitress at the bar testified that she saw Christian with McLellan, Tomkins and Lonchar the night he disappeared. She said at the bar an argument amongst the men broke out, and Christian’s life was threatened, before all four men left the establishment. Later the same night the men, minus Lonchar, were seen at the Family Villa Restaurant in Oscoda.
Records indicate the murder was conducted with a stolen pistol. Lonchar told the court that he did not commit the murder, and told McLellan and Tomkins not to shoot Christian, nonetheless, he was still convicted of first degree murder for his participation in the incident, which included paying the owner of the pistol after the larceny.