Looney pleads guilty to second degree murder in Yarmouth Port bat assault

Victim in critical condition for eight months following 2012 assault

John D. Looney, 54 of Yarmouth Port, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Barnstable Superior Court Thursday. The charges stemmed from a baseball bat attack on March 23, 2012, according to a release from the Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office.

On that day in 2012, Looney had gone to the apartment of his neighbor 69-year-old Richard Steele on Oak Glen Road in the King's Way community off Route 6A in Yarmouth Port. Steele had reportedly stepped outside and the two men began to argue. When a female guest of Steele's came to the front door, she reportedly saw Looney standing over Steele. Looney was hitting Steele over the head with a baseball bat, according to the DA. The woman tried to stop Looney and was struck in the arms and back with the bat. A neighbor called 911 and Yarmouth police officers arrived to find Steele motionless on the ground.

Yarmouth firefighters transported Steele to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis where he was then transferred to a Boston-area hospital. Richard Steele remained in a critical medical state for approximately eight months, the release said. He died on December 1, 2012, a result of blunt force trauma to the head, according to the State Medical Examiner's Office.

Looney had fled the scene following the attack and was arrested that evening at the Cape Cod Hospital ER while seeking treatment for an arm injury.

While the case was pending in court, Looney underwent several psychological evaluations, the DA said. He was found competent to stand trial despite a 30-year mental health history of paranoid schizophrenia including auditory hallucinations, the release said. The psychological evaluations determined that Looney's mental health had been deteriorating for months after he stopped taking prescribed medication and failed to attend treatment sessions. At the time of his arrest, Looney was listed as a Level 3 sex offender, convicted of assault with intent to rape in 1992.

Following his guilty plea on Thursday, Superior Court Gary Nickerson sentenced John D. Looney to a mandatory life sentence for the second degree murder charge and a concurrent sentence of 2- to 3-years in state prison for the assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charge.

The case was prosecuted by Second Assistant Attorney Sharon J. Thibeault and was investigated by the Yarmouth Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police Department and the Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office.

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