Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, Tippecanoe County Superior Court 2 Judge Thomas Bush ruled that Christopher Stevens, 37, would be sentenced instead to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The new sentence was the result of a recommendation by the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office.
Stevens was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of Zachary Snider. The death penalty in the case was set-aside in 2007 by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, while the conviction for felony murder stood.
A retrial on the penalty phase of Stevens' trial was set to begin in February.
The decision to not put Stevens on trial again was based largely on the wishes of Zachary's parents, Todd and Sandy Snider.
"I, Todd Snider, as well as my wife Sandy Snider, would like to drop the death penalty in favor of life without the possibility of parole," Todd Snider said in a written statement to the court. "Our family has suffered enough and would like for this to be resolved once and for all. This will give our family finality. Chris Stevens will die in prison and will never have the opportunity to destroy peoples' lives again."
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he felt compelled to abide by the Sniders' wishes.
"My office had prepared for the upcoming trial over the past 12 months," he said. "Todd and Sandy Snider asked me to consider life without parole to prevent them from having to go through another jury trial 15 years later. Mr. Stevens more than deserved the death penalty, but I will honor Todd and Sandy's request."
Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Long has also put numerous hours into the case.
Bookwalter believes the outcome of a second death penalty trial for Stevens would have been the same as the first.
"I believe it was probable that another jury would have given Mr. Stevens the death penalty, but it would have caused the Sniders to go through a lengthy jury trial, and then if convicted, a new set of appeals could have gone on another 10 years," he said. "With the plea, this case is over. There are no more appeals and the Sniders should never have to deal with Stevens again."
Retired Indiana State Police Detective Dick Rice, now 68, who was the lead investigator on the Stevens case in 1993, came out of retirement to assist Bookwalter when it appeared the case would go to another trial.
It was Rice to whom Stevens gave his confession.
"When the verdict came down, I felt like (Stevens) should have been put to death," Rice said. "But with appeals, this thing could have gone on forever. Now it's over."
Rice said in his estimation, Stevens has never shown any remorse for murdering Zachary.
"He has never said he was sorry," he said.
In addition to reopening old wounds for the victim's parents, another trial in Stevens' case would have been costly.
"The trial, in all likelihood, would have cost the county $300,000 to $500,000," Bookwalter said. "But the cost was not a factor in my decision. The County Council has been very supportive and told me to do my job and not worry about the cost."
Bookwalter said the reality is that Stevens will likely have a harder time with the general prison population than he did on death row.
"Mr. Stevens will now be moved off death row and be without the privileges death row inmates get," he said.
Stevens molested and strangled to death Zachary Snider on July 15, 1993. Because of the media attention the case received, a change of venue motion was granted and the original trial was held in Tippecanoe County.
Stevens had a prior Marion County conviction for Class C felony child molesting when he murdered Zachary. Stevens was convicted in that case in February 1993 and received a four-year sentence with three years suspended and probated. His probation was transferred to Cloverdale, where he returned to live with his father.
Zachary and Stevens were often seen together prior to the murder, and at one point Todd Snider had warned Stevens to stay away from his son.
When Zachary went missing, a search was launched. Court records said Stevens confessed to his brother that he had murdered Zachary, and on July 21, 1993 Stevens led authorities to a bridge in Warren Township just north of Cloverdale where Zachary's body and his bicycle were found.
Rice said Stevens dumped Zachary's body about three miles from where the murder was committed.
"This changed the whole community," Rice said.
Zachary Snider's murder was the impetus for Zachary's Law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2003 and requires Indiana sheriff's departments to establish and maintain the Indiana Sheriffs' Sex Offender Registry to provide detailed information about individuals who register as sex or violent offenders at Indiana sheriff's departments.
For Bookwalter, one of the saddest aspects of the case is thinking about all the things Zachary Snider never got to do.
"We talk about Stevens ad nauseum," he said. "What we should be thinking about is this 10-year-old kid who never got to get a driver's license, go to a prom, meet a girl and get married. His life was just snuffed out."