Michigan Department of Corrections/2015

Appeals Court Again Rejects Sentence In Teen's Sand Pit Death

May 26, 2018 - 11:47 am

TRAVERSE CITY (WWJ/AP) - Seven years later, the prison sentence remains unsettled in the death of a northern Michigan girl who was stabbed and buried in sand.

The state appeals court says Robert Schwander should return to Grand Traverse County court for a fourth time.

The appeals court this week says judges repeatedly have failed to explain why Schwander's sentence should greatly exceed the guidelines. In 2011, he was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Carly Lewis and sentenced to 40 to 70  years -- nearly double the highest minimum under state sentencing guidelines.

During his third trip to court, he was again ordered to serve at least 40 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. But the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, says the punishment was "unreasonable and disproportionate."

Click here to read the court's opinion (.pdf format)

The 24-year-old Schwander will face a third judge. Two others who handled his case have retired.

Carly disappeared on June 2 and her body was found June 14, the eve of her 17th birthday, in a sand pile at a public works complex near a hut that Schwander was using as a temporary dwelling. Prosecutors said Schwander, the son of a Grand Traverse County sheriff’s deputy, plotted Carly’s death and fatally stabbed her. Testifying in his own defense, Schwander told jurors Carly died after he put her in a choke hold to calm her down during an argument. He said he never intended to kill her.

Carly was reported missing after leaving a friend’s home, leading to searches in Traverse City and nearby communities in Michigan’s northwestern Lower Peninsula. Police said Schwander eventually led them to her body.