John Douglas White, 55, was sentenced Thursday in Isabella County Trial Court to a minimum of 56 years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to the Oct. 31 murder of Rebekah Jane Gay, essentially locking him up for life.
Chief Judge Paul H. Chamberlain gave White a minimum sentence of 56 years and three months to a maximum of 85 years.
“I find that your sentence today is proportionate to the seriousness of your crime,” Chamberlain said at the Isabella County Building, 200 N. Main St. “Some people have no place in the community, and you are such a person. I don’t see a reason why you should ever be released.”
Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully said the court’s guidelines should consider the nature of the crime and its effect on the family.
“The guidelines do not take into account the deviant sexual act that Mr. White perpetrated upon Rebekah’s body,” Scully said. “And in this particular case, the emotional injury should be and cannot be scored as points on a sentencing grid.”
Scully addressed White’s past crimes against females, which include a 1981 stabbing and a 1995 homicide.
Defense Attorney Gordon Bloem said the court should take White’s reasoning for skipping trial and pleading guilty into account before determining his sentence.
“Of course, we feel and understand the palpable emotional harm and pain that is present in this courtroom,” Bloem said. “But I do think the court should take into account that Mr. White instructed me he did not want to put the family through any unnecessary pain.”
Rebekah was murdered Oct. 31 in her Broomfield Township mobile home, 3303 S. Coldwater Road.
As a self-described pastor, White was engaged to Sally and often babysat Conway, Rebekah’s three-year-old son.
After confessing to the murder, White blamed it on a two-week sexual fantasy he had to kill Gay and have sex with her dead body. He told the police he did not remember carrying out his fantasy, because he drank four or five beers before going to Gay’s home.
Gay’s body was discovered in a stand of pine trees on Coldwater Road, and the mallet and bloody towels used in the murder were discovered off of Pickard Road, near Woodruff Road.
Rebekah’s mother, Sally Gay, addressed the court about what she and her family had gone through, with one of her daughters standing beside her for support.
“If Rebekah were alive, we would not be here at all. My grandchildren would have a living, loving, caring aunt,” Gay said. “I would be at work, my daughter would be at school. Everyone would be carrying out their daily activities, including Rebekah.”
While Gay spoke of her daughter, more than a dozen supporters and family members sat behind the bench wearing white T-shirts with Rebekah’s full name across the front and back.
“John White knew Rebekah was the heart and soul of our family,” Gay said. “Someone who showed no mercy on our Rebekah is now at the mercy of the court, yet again.”
Both Scully and Gay noted how religious Rebekah was and how, when White entered the residence, her son, Conway, was in the next room.
“She said prayers with her son Conway every night before bed, following story time,” Gay said. “We found her Bible and devotional next to her bed where she had left them.”
When Gay was pleading on behalf of her daughter, White sat motionless, occasionally nodding his head.
“Oct. 31, 2012 was a day of complete emotional devastation for our family,” Gay said. “It began with a phone call from John White, saying he had just been informed by a neighbor Rebekah had not made it to work that morning.”