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Christopher Smeltzer, 39, returns to superior court on Friday to learn his sentence after pleading guilty on Oct. 5 to manslaughter for killing his wife, Mara Pappalardo, last November. Smeltzer told police he killed his wife after finding that she strangled to death their 4-year-old son, Mason. Smeltzer is shown here entering court for his plea hearing in October. (James A. Kimble)

Smeltzer gets 15 to 30 years for killing wife after she murdered their son

BRENTWOOD &#-; Christopher Smeltzer was sentenced 15 to 30 years in state prison for beating to death his wife, Mara Pappalardo, after coming home to find that she killed their four-year-old son, Mason.

Smeltzer, 39, sobbed heavily as he spoke to Chief Justice Tina Nadeau during his sentencing hearing Friday morning, expressing remorse for his actions on the night of Nov. 7, 2010.

&#';When I walked into that room it was an unimaginable nightmare. I lost all control. I did something that would not bring my son back. I miss my son, I miss his laugh. I miss his smile,&#'; Smeltzer said. &#';I lost part of me that night.&#';

Smeltzer pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Oct. 5 in Rockingham County Superior Court, and learned his fate this morning in courtroom filled with his and his late wife's families.

Defense lawyers, Julia Nye and John Newman, argued for a 7 1/2 to 20-year prison sentence, saying that Smeltzer has taken responsibility for his action and will live with his wife's killing for the rest of his life.

The Smeltzer and Pappalardo families packed the court gallery. The two families were clearly divided about how much time Smeltzer should remain behind bars, and whether he should have contact with his daughter, Mercey, 7.

Pappalardo's family members played a recording of Mercey Smeltzer saying she was afraid of her father and suggested he may have tried to kill her on the night of the killing. Prosecutors disagreed with that statement.

Nadeau said she decided to follow the state's recommended sentence after reviewing court documents, victim impact statements and letters by Smeltzer's family and friends.

As part of his plea agreement, Smeltzer will be allowed to get a five year reduction off his prison sentence if he obtains a college degree.

More to come in Saturday editions of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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