RACINE — A Sturtevant man sat silently in a Racine County courtroom Monday while some members of his family, and of the man he fatally shot in a darkened pole barn last year, wept as he was sentenced to 38 years behind bars.
Scott D. Mertins Sr., 47, fired the fatal shot that killed Robert G. Greene, a father of six, formerly of Mount Pleasant. Greene was shot in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2012, at a home in the 16300 block of Plank Road in Yorkville.
According to Greene’s family members, Greene — who had been living in Ironton, Ohio, at the time — and his girlfriend were at that home because they had returned to attend a funeral.
“I don’t think you realize what you did to our family by making the choices you did that night,” Greene’s former partner, Lana Schlagel, said during Mertins’ sentencing hearing on Monday. “Our daughter — it pushed her over the edge. She’s on drugs now. She doesn’t have her children now. You left a hole in every one of his children.”
Clutching a white tissue, Schlagel said now she is the guardian for their three granddaughters. She said Greene might not have been the best dad, yet his children always hoped “one day he would step up to the plate” and be a better father.
But that hope died with Greene.
“I understand, in essence, this is a life sentence,” Racine County Circuit Judge Charles Constantine said in sentencing Mertins to 38 years in prison plus 13 years on extended supervision.
Mertins pleaded no contest June 14 to first-degree reckless homicide.
Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the property at about 2 a.m. Aug. 26, 2012, for a report of shots possibly being fired. Greene, 54, suffered a gunshot wound to the left arm. An autopsy showed the bullet perforated his heart and pulmonary artery, according to Mertins’ criminal complaint.
Greene had been at the Plank Road home, asleep in a pole barn with his girlfriend, when they awoke to a noise, the complaint stated. When Greene went to investigate, he was shot, investigators have said.
Mertins, already a convicted felon who was prohibited from carrying a gun, told investigators he always carried a gun and fired when he was startled by Greene.
Mertins’ defense attorney, Assistant State Public Defender Gretchen Rosenke, said he had been drinking whiskey all night before deciding to retrieve some of his belongings, stored in that pole barn. She said he was homeless and jobless and wanted to obtain that property for his children. He reportedly used to work for the property owner.
“He’s not a vicious individual. He has never been able to get a handle on his alcohol and drug use,” Rosenke said. “It was fueled by alcohol. It was senseless.”
But Mertins has taken responsibility for the shooting, she said.
“I can’t believe I’m the one responsible for taking a man’s life. I know there’s nothing I can say to make them feel better,” Mertins said during his sentencing. “I met Rob a few times. I liked the guy. I didn’t mean to harm anybody.”
Constantine said he accepted Mertins’ apology, but he didn’t know if Greene’s family would.
“You just basically left him there, and left him there to die,” Constantine said.
After the sentencing, Greene’s ex-wife, Ellen Reff, 52, of Caledonia, said Greene’s father didn’t live to see his son’s killer punished. Greene’s father died one month ago, she said.
Two of Greene’s adult sons watched the sentencing.
“I think that devastated them,” Reff said of his children never achieving a closer relationship with their father.
“I’m all right with the sentence,” Schlagel said after Monday’s hearing. “I don’t think it’s ever enough, but I don’t think he’ll ever see the light of day again.”
Mertins’ son, Scott Mertins Jr., declined to comment on the sentence after the hearing. Rosenke also declined to comment after the sentencing.