Demotte man sentenced to over 50 years for murder

Joseph Borgia III will serve 53 years for murdering his wife in August of 2018. Family members of his and the victim's testified during a sentencing hearing on Friday.

Posted: Oct 30, 2020 5:06 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2020 1:09 AM

JASPER COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – A Demotte man will spend the next 53 years behind bars for murdering his wife in August of 2018. Jasper County Judge John Potter sentenced Joseph Borgia III Friday afternoon for the crime.

As we’ve previously reported, first responders were called to the Borgia home in Demotte for a reported house fire. When they arrived, there was no fire. However, they did find Amanda Borgia stabbed to death in the dining room of the home. Police took Borgia into custody. He had bloodstains on his body. The two young Borgia sons, who were 3 and 5-years-old at the time had witnessed the crime. First responders also found them with blood on their bodies.

The children have since been adopted by Amanda’s parents, Penny and James Diehl. There is a no-contact order between Joseph and his children until they become legal adults.

Borgia was originally charged with murder, two counts of neglect of a dependent and possession of marijuana. After more than two years of the case pending, Borgia entered a guilty plea agreement in September to one count of murder and one count of neglect of a dependent.

Friday’s court proceedings began with opening arguments from the state and defense. Jasper County Prosecutor, Jacob Taulman, started by acknowledging how fitting it was that this sentencing hearing was being held on one of the last days of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Friends and family of Amanda Borgia wore the color purple in the gallery of the courtroom. They said purple was Amanda’s favorite color, but it is also the official color of Domestic Violence Awareness.

Taulman said Amanda had become a domestic violence statistic at the hands of her husband. He called the act selfish, callous and senseless. He acknowledged that the couple’s two young children saw their mother get murdered and would be traumatized by it for the rest of their lives. He asked the court for the maximum sentence for murder, which is 55 years.

Defense attorney Jacob Ahler said regardless of the sentencing, there would be no winners and no losers at the end of the hearing. However, he prefaced his arguments by saying the Borgia marriage was a troubled one and that testimony from family and Joseph himself would show that the acts of that night were not in his character. He asked for the minimum sentence for murder, which is 47 years.

Detective Eric Kidwell with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office took the stand first for the state. He was shown photos of the Borgia children. He acknowledged for the court that the kids had bloodstains on the front and back of their clothing, their hands and even some on one of their cheeks. Photos of Joseph taken that night show he had blood on his hands, legs, feet and shirt.
He said he interviewed Joseph the morning after the incident happened. He said Joseph admitted to there being an argument and that he did stab his wife. Joseph told him that Amanda came at him first with a knife. He confirmed that Joseph never said he was “out of his mind” during the interview.

Det. Kidwell interviewed him that same afternoon at Joseph’s request. Joseph told him that they had marriage problems and that Amanda’s parents were too involved in their marriage. He said Joseph showed some remorse when asked about his kids witnessing the murder. Det. Kidwell said there was a circular imprint in the drywall that is consistent with head being pushed into the wall. There were also bloodstains on this imprint. Joseph told him that he left get another knife that was eventually used to stab her again.
Kidwell said that someone from Valley Oaks’ Child Advocacy Center interviewed the children. He said one was quiet and did not say anything. The other son said he saw his mom’s head get pushed though the wall. The boy told his Valley Oaks interviewer that he tried to help his mom by trying to get to her phone.

Ahler cross-examined Kidwell next. Kidwell said other investigators who talked with Joseph after he was in custody at the scene noticed he was acting strangely, talking wildly and making weird statements. He confirmed for the defense that Joseph did show remorse while being interviewed about his children.

Sergeant Gerald Michalack testified next for the state. He is a Crime Scene Investigator with the Indiana State Police. He confirmed that he took photos of the scene and the victim. The defense objected to the photos being submitted, saying they are prejudicial and grotesque. This was overruled by Judge Potter. The state continued by having him describe photos taken of the dining room where Amanda was found.

He said they were having breakfast food for dinner that night. He confirmed that there was a circular break in the wall with bloodstains. He said there was blood on the end of the kitchen island countertop. He took a photo of one knife recovered from the scene that was stained with blood. Sgt. Michalack was there for the autopsy and witnessed the doctor remove an 8-inch knife from Amanda’s back that was left in her body when she was transported.

Back in the dining room, a chair was knocked over and a curtain was wrapped around the chair. He confirmed this shows there was movement from one side of the room to the other that ended in Amanda on the ground face down. He said there was a cell phone found near her arm, covered in blood. There were multiple fatal wounds according to the autopsy doctor’s report.

Marcia Beauchamp testified about her involvement with the Borgia children. She is a Child Family Therapist who specializes in the effect trauma has on children ages 12 and under. She works with the two boys every week through play therapy. She said the goals of their treatment plan are to help them work through the trauma and help them to learn, identify and talk about their emotions.
She said the older son suppresses his feelings more than his younger brother. She said the older son talks about how he loved the house and how he tried to find his mother’s cell phone. She said his trauma manifests in his play. She said he will build intricate towns with toys only to have a bad guy come and destroy it all in an instant. She said the younger one talks more openly about it. He talks about “mommy’s blood” and blood on the curtains.

Beauchamp said this is trauma they will carry with them and have to deal with their entire lives. She said she doesn’t like to reinforce children’s victimhood or make them think they are broken with continuous counseling. She said it’s best for counseling to come and go in their lives as the trauma resurfaces.

Next began statements from friends and family members of Amanda’s family, the Diehls. They still had anger towards Joseph and were not ready to forgive him. Three generations of their family gave statements before the court.

Amanda’s aunt described her as, “a loving daughter, faithful wife, amazing mother, kind, intelligent, ambitious, goal oriented and the life of the party.” She said a testament to that could be found in the hundreds of people who attended Amanda’s wake and funeral. She talked about the trauma the two boys have to live with every day and the impact of losing Amanda has on the entire family. She called Joseph selfish and spoiled and asked that the court impose the highest sentence without remorse. She ended her statement by saying the best form of justice would be for Joseph to “drop dead in jail the day before his release date.”

A family friend talked about his relationship to Amanda over the years as he grew up being friends with members of the family. He said he has grown to become an “adopted son” of the Diehl family. He said he can’t pick up a kitchen knife anymore without thinking about what a similar knife was used for in the killing of Amanda. He talked about how painful it was for him to have to wash Amanda’s blood off the boys. He told the court he hoped that image would haunt Joseph forever. He said a person who murders children’s mother in front of them should never be released from prison.

Amanda’s grandmother wanted Joseph to fully realize what he did that day. She said her granddaughter was beautiful, inside and out. She said the boys meant everything to their mother, and that Amanda had always wanted to be a mom. She said she has heard her great-grandsons beg to make sure that “daddy doesn’t make mommy bloody again.” She said while he can’t hurt Amanda anymore, the boys have to live with what happened for the rest of their lives.

Amanda’s younger brother, Josh Diehl, gave an emotional statement to the court. He talked about how he and Amanda had always been close as siblings and how lonely he is without her. He said a nuclear bomb was dropped on their lives that night and that so much was stolen from their family. He said his last memories of his sister were seeing her after the autopsy, and her closed casket at their childhood church. He said he agonizes over thinking of her final moments and the fact that he had been a groomsman for Joseph at their wedding. He said every happy event for the rest of their lives will be blemished by the fact of her absence. He ended by saying that Joseph “deserves the worst life has to offer,” “a life of discomfort” and the “harshest punishment.”

Amanda’s father, James Diehl, brought a photo of his daughter to show the court. He said he went to check on Amanda and Joseph the day she was killed. He said he would never have left if there was any indication of the trouble that would ensue. He remembered his daughter for her smile and her laugh. He remembered her love for her boys, how she would take them fishing in their backyard pond and how she looked forward to helping coach their sports teams. Photo right: The photo of Amanda Borgia that the Diehl family held for the court during testimony.

He said Joseph stole Amanda from their family. He said he has to watch his grandsons go through counseling when they should be carefree in school with other kids. He talked about how successful Amanda was. How she thrived in college, graduated from the University of Southern Indiana and was even the school mascot at one time. She worked her way to becoming a manager at Centier Bank.

He said he felt sorry for Joseph’s family for the shame they now have to live with. He said Joseph didn’t know how to be a good dad or a good husband and that he always put himself first. He called Joseph a liar when he asked permission to marry Amanda and said he would always take care of her. He said Joseph was supposed to be her knight in shining armor, but turned out to be “turd wrapped in tin foil.” He asked the court for the maximum sentence.

Finally, Amanda’s mother, Penny Diehl, took the stand. She said Amanda was her best friend and that she was taken by a “soulless man.” She described her daughter as “beautiful inside and out, intelligent, respectful, honest, proud and a great hugger. She said she had a huge heart and was a thoughtful gift giver. She talked about how Amanda was a devoted mom to her boys.

She took time to acknowledge Amanda’s co-workers at Centier Bank, who sold purple bracelets in Amanda’s honor. She said they raised $3,000 and donated it all to the St. Jude House for domestic violence. She said her daughter loved the color purple, and that they feel her presence in the beauties of nature. She said they have a bright star above their home that they call Amanda’s star, where they feel her watching over them.

She got emotional when she talked about what it’s been like to lose her daughter. She said she feels battered and bruised every time she thinks of her daughter. She said she grieves for the milestones she will miss in her boys’ lives and the holiday get-togethers she won’t be at. She talked about the loss her grandsons have in not knowing their mother’s touch or love.

She described what happened to Amanda as “malicious, violent, heinous and devastating.” She called Joseph a “selfish monster.” After a pause for several seconds, she continued. “I hate you,” she said. “I hate what you have done to our family.” She said she can never forgive Joseph and that she hopes he “rots and burns in hell.” She said he is a threat to society and that he does not deserve any second chances. She asked for the maximum sentence and said if Joseph ever does get out of prison, “it should be in a body bag so you can’t hurt anyone else.”

She concluded by saying she can only take comfort in knowing Amanda is shining in the sky and is in God’s loving arms. Joseph did not make eye contact with the family members as they spoke on the stand. The state then rested its case.

After a mid-morning break, Joseph Borgia III took the stand for the defense.. He said he met Amanda the day before Thanksgiving in 2008. He said they dated for about three years and were married in October 2011. He said their marriage was good in the beginning, but after their first son was born and they both started to get more involved in their work, things started to turn sour.
He talked about his time a volunteer fire fighter for several local departments. He even became a District 1 instructor for up and coming fire fighters. He described himself as an “active father,” taking his sons fishing, to see trains in Griffith and getting involved in Little League.

He said an addiction to painkillers began after an injury, which added to their conflicts. He said he went through a six-month program to try and get clean. He said they went to marriage counseling for a year starting in 2016.

In the summer of 2018, he said he was diagnosed with adult ADHD. He said in August, he had been working for his father’s company, but quit the day before Amanda’s murder. He said he had issues with trying to live up to his father’s legacy and that he quit because he needed some days off to get his life back in order.

He said the night before her murder he had a glass of wine and started hallucinating. He said he had never experience hallucinations before and that he was frightened by it. He said the hallucinations continued the next day when he saw the numbers 666 on his TV screen and people talking to him from the screen. He said he felt extreme paranoia of death and that he was being targeted. He said the hallucinations and feelings of anxiety continued throughout the day.

He said eventually Amanda’s and his parents showed up at their house to talk with them and help them work through some issues. He remembered feeling disoriented, confused, crying and telling the group that he needed help. He said eventually the parents all left around the same time. He said as soon as they left, Amanda started yelling at him and calling him stupid. He said she had been making dinner when she started throwing things at him. Still feeling paranoid, he said he went out to his garage to take a hit of marijuana to try and calm him down. When he went back in, he said he was going to get waters for the boys and claimed Amanda smacked the cups out of his hand and told him to get out. He said he didn’t quite recall what happened next, but said there was a physical struggle and that he did remember stabbing her eight times. He said Amanda did not have a knife in her hand. He said he did not recall leaving to get a second knife, stabbing her and leaving the knife in her.

After, he said he told the boys to go out to the garage. He remembered running outside barefoot and calling the fire department. He said they were the first people he thought to call. He said he was aware of the fact that the boys saw it all. He said he can’t explain how terrible it all was and that it makes him sick to think about.

He confirmed that he signed the consent forms for the boys’ adoption and the no-contact order. He said he signed documents at the Jasper County Jail transferring his and Amanda’s estate assets to the boys.

He said he sincerely and honestly apologizes to Amanda’s family. He said his heart is broken and that he wishes he could trade places with her.

Joseph’s father, Joseph Borgia Sr. testified next for the defense. He confirmed that his son worked for him at the construction business he manages. He said he had a normal relationship with his son and Amanda, saying they would watch the grandkids now and then and have dinner with Amanda. He said his son was never violent growing up, even as a high school hockey player.
He said Joseph III would confide in him some about their marital issues, but didn’t make a habit of it. He said he was aware of his son’s addiction problem. He said he saw Joseph III acting strangely at work the day before the murder. He remembered going over to their home the day of the murder to help them through their issues. He said his son was sobbing and that he had never seen in like that before.

He said problems with mental health disorders runs in his family. He said his other daughter had sought professional help for hallucinations. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and several other members of their family have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He said what had happened to Joseph III that night was genetic and wasn’t his fault.

He addressed some of the remarks made by the Diehl family. He said prison itself is hell and that he had visited his son at the jail to find him with injuries from being beaten up. He said their family is suffering too at the loss of losing Amanda, losing their grandchildren and ultimately losing Joseph III. He said it almost ruined his own marriage. He said he is proud of his son.

After a lunch break, court resumed with testimony from Dr. Stephen Ross. He is a clinical psychologist and a forensic psychologist who helped analyze Joseph’s behavior. He conducted several lengthy tests on Joseph to determine his psychopathology, mood issues, emotion control, violent tendencies and impulse control. He also interviewed Joseph and analyzed body camera footage from that night.

The defense played the obscene video for the court. Joseph was shirtless and moving around rapidly while surrounded by officers next to an ambulance. He was also talking in a frantic manner. He said he had lost his mind and was asking for a light for a cigarette. He all of a sudden started making homosexual remarks towards the officers and said “I am f***ing nuts dude.” His voice sounded raspy and a lower than how he talked when he testified. He said several other expletives and sexual remarks as officers pat him down.

Dr. Ross came to the conclusion that Joseph was having impulsive behaviors that led to a manic state and delusional thinking. He concluded that Joseph did at least understand right from wrong during this episode. He said the body camera footage was in line with someone who is mentally ill. He said it was more than just anger, that it was cognitive dysfunction and emotional disturbance. He confirmed for Judge Potter that his conclusion is that Joseph’s mental illness contributed to what happened that night, but is not the full explanation or blame.

During questioning from the state, Dr. Ross said he was not given certain things to examine that might have been helpful, such as text message exchanges or the drug screen report. He confirmed for the state that an extreme amount of adrenaline occurs after an event like a murder, and that the high levels of adrenaline are a possible explanation for Joseph’s behavior in the video.

Finally, several other people closely connected to the Borgia family testified to Joseph’s character. His stepmother of 18 years said she felt Amanda and Joseph were at a stable point when the left their home the night of the murder. She said she was in disbelief when she learned what had happened and that it was not in Joseph’s character.

She said her son did a bad thing but was not a bad person, that he is a happy person with a good soul. She said what their families have gone through is unimaginable and that she loved Amanda too, that she lost a daughter-in-law and a friend.

A family friend talked about how his company employed Joseph independently to a leadership role. He said Joseph was professional and had a good work ethic. He said he had never seen any authority problems at work and had never seen any acts of violence. He said he had seen Joseph and Amanda and their kids at family functions. He described Joseph as a great father who was engaged with his kids and loved his kids. He confirmed for the state that Joseph did not give a two-week notice when he abruptly quit his job the day before the murder.

A work friend of Joseph’s testified that he had carpooled with Joseph for two years and that they never talked about marital problems. He said he had a good friendship with Joseph outside of work, and that he and his wife would go out to dinner with Joseph and Amanda. He said their kids would go on outings together. He said he never witnessed Joseph get physical with his family.
Another family friend testified that he had known Joseph his entire life. He said Joseph was a polite child and grew up to be a polite man. He said he was proud of Joseph’s work as a volunteer fireman and how he advanced to become an instructor. He said Joseph had concern for others, was a generous and giving man, a proud father and husband and that no one could understand this uncharacteristic action. He asked the court to consider his upright past and asked for forgiveness on Joseph’s behalf.

In closing arguments, the Taulman said Amanda should be here now to get her kids ready to go trick-or-treating this weekend and to go Christmas shopping with her mother. He said Joseph had many choices that night, and he chose to murder his wife instead of walking away. Murdering his wife in front of their two young children. He argued Amanda never got a choice in the matter.
He said Joseph’s testimony minimized his role in the incident and that there was a lack of ownership. He said Joseph changed his story often, that Joseph told investigators he got a bigger knife to “make sure that b**ch was dead.” He said Joseph chased Amanda around the dining room, causing the chair and curtain to knock over. He said this “vile, brutal, inhumane act” does not deserve a second chance. He alluded to a saying: “Sometimes justice should be tempered with mercy.” “Not this case,” said Taulman. He concluded by saying anything less than the maximum depreciates the atrocities and tragedy of what happened to Amanda, her boys and their families.

Ahler began his closing arguments by saying the defense does not take this case lightly and that he acknowledges some of the undisputable aggregators in the case, like the presence of the children. However, he hoped the court would put weight on the testimony of the Borgia family and friends who had seen Joseph over his entire life. He believed that Joseph truly did love his children and wouldn’t intentionally traumatize them. He said Dr. Ross’ testimony indicates that Joseph was not his true self that night and that he didn’t know what had happened until after. He concluded by again asking the court for the minimum sentence, saying the defense is not trying to get Joseph a second chance. But simply working to make sure this one, split-second instance doesn’t define Joseph’s life.

During rebuttal, Taulman did not hold back. He said this was not a split-second instance when Amanda had eight to nine fatal stab wounds. This was not one moment when he argued that Joseph left to get a bigger knife to “embed firmly in Amanda’s back.” He said everyone has marital problems and it is not an excuse to murder a spouse. He said Joseph had always been focused on himself, his glory and his recognition his whole life.

Judge Potter began his deliberation. He began by saying there is nothing he can say, no decision he can make that would erase the wounds of those in the courtroom on Friday. He said this was a terrible tragedy at the hands of Joseph’s decision. He acknowledged that the young Borgia children lost both their parents that night. He tried to empathize with the children, thinking of all the violent TV shows and cartoons that every other person can watch without problem. But for these kids, they will always be reminded of that they saw.

He referenced an unspecified report where Joseph said “that b**ch was worth it,” that he “gave into his passion” and that he told the kids Amanda was the one trying to hurt them.

He said many people might have testified this was out of Joseph’s character, but that he believed this was in a way in his character. His character may not be that of a cold-blooded killer, but it is of someone who takes the easy way out, said Judge Potter. He agreed that mental illness is not an excuse of his actions, as years of legal precedent also confirm. Joseph had testified that killing his wife was the hardest thing he had done, but Judge Potter didn’t believe him, saying it was the easiest thing to have done. He said admitting to a drug problem and fighting to overcome it is hard. He said working to fix a marriage is hard, but getting rid of the problems with a marriage by getting rid of your spouse is the easy way out.

He called it a terrible and senseless tragedy. He acknowledged that the harm suffered by Amanda being stabbed multiple times was significant. That his children were victims having seen it happen. He said as Joseph testified, he talked in a passive voice, something he notes in defendants as a way of shifting things so that they are happening to him. He said this is a form of downplaying. He said he felt Joseph’s apology was hollow and that it was extremely convenient that he had this singular episode of mental illness in the hours leading up to killing his wife.

He also addressed the anger and hurt of the Diehl family. He referred to a saying, “Holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot coal and throwing it at someone else. You still get burned.” He hoped the family could work towards a place of acceptance or forgiveness so that the anger wouldn’t eat them whole.

In the end, he asked Joseph to stand and handed down his sentence of 53 years to be served in the Department of Corrections. He set the date where he can petition to modify his sentence at 48 years. 912 days of his sentence will be served for his neglect of a dependent charge. He advised Joseph of his right to appeal his sentence, but warned him that any future judge could make his sentence go higher as well as lower.

News 18 talked to members of the Diehl family afterwards. They say they only feel a small sense of closure connected to the case, but that they still do not have closure over losing Amanda. They said they wished it had been the full 55-year sentence. For now, Penny and James said they will continue to focus on raising their grandchildren and trying to use that focus to distract them from the pain. They said they will continue to look up at their star and think of all the Amanda meant to them.

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