"These neighbors, actually, have been helping my dad for years. So I’m really having a hard time getting my head around the idea that someone from their family was involved," said the veteran's son.
Trigger warning: Murder, assault, arson
91-year-old Paul Monchnik was an upstanding Detroiter who served in World War II. Post his stint with the army, the elderly man was a self-employed television repairman for more than 50 years, and was thriving in his old age as well. But the nonagenarian's final hours were filled with horror that he may not even have witnessed in war. Instead of a peaceful death in the autumn years of his life, Monchnik was brutally beaten to death by his 18-year-old neighbor who then proceeded to set his house on fire. Monchnik was widowed and is survived by three children who will be haunted by this gruesome incident.
“His life was brutally taken from us by a monster,” Monchnik's son, Scott told The Detroit News. “The terrible sickening feeling I get thinking that my dad’s last hour on Earth was filled with horror and pain, worse than anything he went through in the war.” He described the incident as a "scene from hell" that has traumatized his family. The perpetrator, George Steward IV, lived next door to Monchnik with his grandfather. He has been convicted for the brutal murder and will be serving 30-60 years in prison. After Wayne Circuit Judge Michael Callahan sentenced Steward, the war veteran's family felt a sense of closure.
"These neighbors, actually, have been helping my dad for years. So I’m really having a hard time getting my head around the idea that someone from their family was involved," Scott told USA Today and added, "But I’m very glad they went to the police. And I’m very glad that this person is off the streets, so he cannot do harm to anybody else."
Steward is believed to have entered the elderly man's home with the intention to steal. But instead, he attacked the old man brutally beat him up. And to cover his tracks, the teen bought gasoline and set his neighbor's house on fire. The old man was discovered lying in a pool of blood, with a head injury, and severe burns all over his body.
At the sentencing, Steward was remorseful and expressed regret about his actions. “Each and every day I wish I could take it back,” he stated. “No one should be able to leave this world like that. I’m sorry for the loss I caused their family, for the heartache I put in their hearts. Hopefully one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
The 18-year-old's family expressed concern at how he was being labeled a "monster" when he was far from it. He had never even been in trouble before this murder, his sister, Taige Steward, said of her brother. “I feel sorry for the family and for my family as well because we are all going through,” Taige said. “I know he honestly feels terrible about what happened.”
“This man (Steward) has created a hole in all of us that is filled with anger and hatred, fear and loss,” Scott said. “You have taken something that was not yours to take.” He described his father as a “good and gentleman.” Monchnik had hoped to live long enough to celebrate his 100th birthday. “The word ‘heinous’ does not even begin to describe this crime,” said Prosecutor Kym Worthy in a statement. On the other hand, Tyrone Davison, a family friend of the Steward's said, “It’s an unfortunate situation on both sides. I think it’s more to the story than what’s been told.”