Michael Foster may have claimed self-defense after he grabbed another man's knife and stabbed him, but at his sentencing Friday he was contrite.
“I apologize and I'm sorry,” said Foster, who spoke directly to the family just before Superior Court Judge Fran Gull handed down the maximum sentence of 30 years for voluntary manslaughter.
A jury May 7 found him guilty of the charge but spared him from a murder conviction.
Gull said she found signs of remorse in Foster, convicted of stabbing Warrell Booher last year at East Central Towers, but that remorse was negated by a criminal history dating to 1987 in multiple states.
It was the maximum amount she could sentence for Foster's conviction of voluntary manslaughter even though he wasn't the one who came with the weapon. A level 2 felony in Indiana carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years with an advisory 171/2-year sentence.
Foster's Fort Wayne attorney, Ryan M. Gardner, had asked for a 15-year sentence, citing mitigating circumstances.
It was before 6 p.m. Jan. 24, 2020, when police were called to the apartment complex on East Washington Boulevard, Foster and Booher got into a fight. Foster told police Booher was upset and apparently contacted Foster's girlfriend about an incident, court documents said.
Foster, 53, prepared to fight Booher, 48, by taking off his button-up shirt and changing into sneakers, documents said.
Booher came down from the third floor to Foster's first-floor apartment, and the two went to the floor in a violent wrestle. Security video shows Foster throwing a couple of punches and Booher pulling a knife from his pants or waistband, court documents said.
Foster gained control of the knife and stabbed Booher in the left lung, records said, but has said not only did he not intentionally mean to stab him but that he wasn't sure how it happened.
Foster claimed self-defense, and Friday, Gardner told the judge Foster was “unarmed. Mr. Booher brought the knife. (If he hadn't), we would not be sitting here today.”
Lead Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille disagreed and said legal aspects of mutual combat and strong provocation outweighed the self-defense argument.
“He never really accepted responsibility for his actions,” Chaille told Gull.
At the sentencing, Foster's daughter Mikae'la Foster stood up to say her father wasn't an awful person and that it had “hit hard being away from him.”
A half-dozen women came to speak for Booher, not with anger, but tears. All of them said they forgave Foster but that he'd taken away someone who was a key person in their lives.
Wendy Booher called her brother Warrell her “best friend” and recalled a dream her daughter had where Warrell appeared more than once.
“He said he was OK and he forgave Michael,” Booher said. “Warrell is forever in our hearts.”
Warrell Booher's girlfriend, Gerry Denard, said she prayed for Foster every day among all the other people she prayed for, but she wanted the “correct time he is supposed to get.”
Others called for the maximum time.
“Justice has been served and I am satisfied,” Booher's mother, Maria Lee, said outside the courtroom. She, too, had forgiven Foster.
“I can't hold that hate inside,” Lee said.
The families went peacefully down the stairs or elevator. No harsh words were spoken. Mikae'la Foster waited outside the courtroom with two friends, looking down a hallway where her father would pass by, wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Then, because she was allowed, she walked down the hallway to briefly say goodbye.