A local man convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend and hiding the crime for 18 days received the maximum possible sentence of 85 years in prison Thursday.
Patrick E. Doyle, 40, was ordered to serve 65 years for murder, as well as an additional 20 years for being a habitual criminal, by Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Kelly Benjamin. The sentences will be consecutive, she said.
On Feb. 17, a jury deliberated only 68 minutes before convicting Doyle of the August 2021 murder of Heather Ann Steuver. The body of the 37-year-old victim was found in a shallow grave on the property of Nugent Sand and Gravel Co. two-and-a-half weeks after she disappeared.
“The defendant is a career criminal,” Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kimberly Sexton-Yeager told the court Thursday. “It’s time to end his career as a criminal.”
Doyle has a total of 23 convictions on his criminal record with many crimes displaying a violent nature, Benjamin said. One of his latest crimes occurred last year at the Bartholomew County Jail, where he attempted to flood his cell block, court documents state.
Besides being a substance abuser, it was revealed Thursday that Doyle suffers from multiple mental illnesses that include anti-social personality disorder. This psychological condition is sometimes called sociopathy. While Doyle has been given access to professional help, Benjamin said it had no impact on his criminal behavior.
“Patrick Doyle senselessly took the life of a young mother, daughter, and friend,” Bartholomew County Prosecutor Lindsey Holden-Kay wrote in a prepared statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Heather’s family as they continue to try to cope with this horrific loss. We hope that the conclusion of this trial provides some level of closure to them in that Mr. Doyle has been held accountable for his actions.”
The victim’s mother, Teresa Lowe, tearfully described her unending and painful grief that family members say is making her physical and mental health deteriorate. But Doyle showed no reaction or emotion while Lowe was on the stand. Instead, he cocked his head to the left, swiveled nervously in his chair and looked down.
The same behavior was exhibited by Doyle when the victim’s cousin, Melissa Garrison, took the stand and described him as “an evil human being with a black heart.”
But as Sexton-Yeager outlined the brutality of the murder and the defendant’s contradicting statements, Doyle sat up straight and looked directly at the deputy prosecuting attorney.
In reading a prepared statement in his own defense, Doyle claimed multiple times that he did not kill Steuver. He also said that “lies and shady tactics” were used against him at his trial.
“I have no remorse of murder because I didn’t do it,” Doyle said.
As Benjamin was about to sentence the defendant, she told Doyle neither she nor the jury accepted his claims of innocence.
“I don’t believe you,” the judge said.
“I don’t care,” Doyle responded.
When Benjamin later said the defendant had shoved the victim’s face into a mattress to smother her, Doyle again verbally protested.
“You have no proof I did that,” Doyle said to Benjamin.
But after being reminded of two contradicting stories he provided about waking up to find Steuver’s body, the defendant sat back in silence. At one time, Doyle told investigators his girlfriend’s face was so disfigured when he first saw her dead body that he had to cover her head because he couldn’t bear to look at her. But at another time, Doyle told investigators he saw no visible signs of trauma when he realized Heather was dead.
The defendant claimed he had been drinking and has no idea how Steuver died. But numerous statements he gave to police during multiple interviews undermined his story.
“You know what you did,” Benjamin told the defendant.
Doyle also claimed to be in shock when he wrapped the victim’s body in a sheet, dragged it down the stairs by the ankles, placed it in the back seat of her car, covered her with metal, drove the car to the sand and gravel company where he worked, and buried her body in a shallow grave.
Both Benjamin and Sexton-Yeager described all of those actions as calculated, which indicates he was not in shock.
While reading his statement, Doyle described the elaborate measures he took to hide the killing for 18 days as “poor choices.” Those measures included sending out fake text messages allegedly from Heather and using body fragrances to make it appear she had recently been in the house.
Doyle said he wanted to cover up the crime because he feared the victim’s father, Jerry Lowe, would kill him. The defendant and victim were living with the father in his house when the murder occurred.
Although Thursday’s sentence will likely keep Doyle behind bars for life, he’s scheduled to be back in Bartholomew Circuit Court on April 25 to be tried for 18 felony counts of possession of child pornography. All but one of those counts are Level 5 felonies.