Cory Louis Wagner, 27, was sentenced Oct. 28 by Barry County Circuit Court Judge Amy McDowell to 15 to 35 year in prison for assault with intent to murder his mother.
The sentence was less than the minimum of 20 years in a plea agreement.
Wagner and his girlfriend, Tiffany Chanthavong, 22, both pled guilty in August to the charge of assault with intent to murder his mother.
A sobbing Diane Wagner read a statement saying she was suffering that, “my only son, who I continue to love, will be in prison the rest of my life.”
Wagner, 66, said his relationship with Chanthavong was poisoning, with her history of drinking and drug use, adding he had scratches and bruises where she kicked him.
“His father and I tried to get him to call the police, but he wouldn’t. You see these stories on TV; you never think they will happen to you…”
She gave details of the abusive treatment and threats to her by Chanthavong leading up to and during the final assault, when Chanthavong kicked her and stepped on her neck, demanding Cory Wagner kill her. “Cory said, 'no, I won’t kill my mom,'” she said. She asked McDowell to show mercy on him with a term that will allow him to have a family someday. “Please let me be a mother, please let him out when I’m still alive…Please show mercy on my son.”
“What in the world were you thinking?” Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor-Pratt asked Cory Wagner. “This is your mother.
"The one person you should respect more than anyone, except your father.” Cory Wagner had a free will and could have helped her, she said. “He put himself in the position he is in; not his mother, not Tiffany, not his father or society.”
Nakfoor-Pratt urged Wagner “to do something you clearly have not done in the situation. You need to be a man, stand up and take responsibility for what you’ve done.”
Wagner’s attorney Carol Jones Dwyer said the case was “all too familiar; a person under the influence of another.” Chanthavong did threaten him, though that doesn’t justify what he did; Wagner’s actions were typical feelings and actions of one in conflict, she said. “Look at the overall picture; he is not asking for mercy, I do. This is deeper and more complicated than it seems…we ask the court to be consistent with the agreement.”
Cory Wagner said Chanthavong "manipulated me into doing this. I never thought she would hurt her. I love my mom.
“I lost everything because of my relationship with Tiffany; I thought my life was in danger if I left her… No sentence will pay for what I did.
“I’m sorry for what I did” he said to his weeping mother; “I’m sorry I was stupid. Sorry.. I love you, mom… I love you.”
McDowell said the couple’s relationship was violent and abusive on both sides, noting that Wagner had pled guilty to assault against Chanthavong in an Ottawa County court earlier this year.
“She was the leader and instigator; I believe that. I don’t understand why you let her continue…I understand your mother. She wants you to get out of prison; she wants you to be a family again.”
Taking into consideration his lesser culpability in the situation, McDowell said: “I believe you are salvageable.”
Diane Wagner was allowed one half hour with her son at the jail before he was taken to prison. McDowell will note on her sentence that she has no objection to Wagner visiting her son, although that decision is up to the Department of Corrections.
In sentencing Chanthavong on Oct. 10, McDowell went above the cap in the agreement and offered her the chance to change her plea. Chanthavong did not change her plea and was sentenced to 23.3 to 40 years in prison. Wagner had said he wanted to withdraw his plea at that time, but at the sentencing Dwyer said he had decided against it.
On July 4, when his mother refused to give Wagner money to leave the state, Wagner and Chanthavong severely beat her, threatened to kill her, bound her with duct tape, tied her to a chair and locked her in a bathroom, before fleeing with her car and credit card.
The pair was arrested by Rockford, Illinois police the next day and extradited to Barry County.
Photo: Cory Louis Wagner