By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Penny Strechansky thinks she knows the answer, but it’s a question worth asking, anyway:
When she entered her kitchen at about 6 a.m. July 4, awakened by her barking dog, Tyler J. Fennell was there. He could have just run out the open door. Strechansky’s son, Michael, said Fennell might have gotten away before his mother saw him. Why did he not run?
“The light was on,” said Assistant Mercer County District Attorney Brian Farrone. “The defendant knew she was coming before she knew he was there.”
But, Fennell didn’t run. Instead, he attacked Penny Strechansky with a pair of scissors he had taken from a tool chest in her garage, the same scissors she uses to trim the vines in her hanging baskets. He stabbed Strechansky in the head.
Strechansky struggled with then 19-year-old Fennell, fearful that he had already killed her grandson, an invalid whose room is off the garage, and that he would kill her husband, Paul, and daughter, Patricia Johnson, who also lived in her Lyle Drive home in Hermitage.
“I tried to yell but nothing would come out of my mouth,” Strechansky said Monday at Fennell’s sentencing. “I just kept fighting and fighting.”
Paul Strechansky heard the commotion and came to his wife’s aid. He pinned Fennell against a car in the garage briefly, but Fennell ran away. Penny Strechansky said she ran after him to see where he was going.
Michael Strechansky recalled seeing his parents’ home after the attack.
“It looked something like a horror movie,” he told Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John. “The amount of blood in the kitchen and garage was unreal.”
St. John said the Fennell case stands out for him.
“I don’t think I’ve had anyone who attacked in a vicious way the way you did,” St. John said.
St. John answered Fennell’s viciousness with a long sentence: 10è to 21 years in state prison. Fennell pleaded guilty Jan. 23 to charges of burglary, aggravated assault and robbery.
Fennell, formerly of Sharon, who has been in jail since an off-duty Sharon policeman arrested him later that day, said he was “truly sorry” for the events that happened that night, and noted he had been drinking “the whole night.”
Going over Fennell’s life history, St. John noted that Fennell described his childhood as normal, with the only blip the divorce of his parents. He asked Fennell how someone goes from a normal childhood into burglary and assault.
“Drugs and alcohol,” Fennell said.
Defense attorney Thomas Burkhart said Fennell had received a good report from the jail, and that Fennell had obtained the equivalent of a high school diploma while inside.
The fact that Fennell has done well in jail means he is “properly institutionalized,” something the judge said “saddens” him.
“You obviously are a threat to the community and yourself,” St. John said, calling Fennell’s substance abuse and mental health issues – anger management and a mood disorder – “profound.”
So, why didn’t Fennell leave? He did not say.
Penny Strechansky, who has recurring headaches and nightmares and is “terrified” to sleep, was left with her belief: “I don’t think he wanted to leave empty-handed. He was there for a purpose.”