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Bellevue 19-year-olds sentenced to 40 to 50 years for attack on the woman's dad

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A young man and woman from Bellevue who were found guilty of first-degree assault in an attack on the woman's father each was sentenced Tuesday to 40 to 50 years in prison.

Josh Fithian.jpg

Josh Fithian

Sarpy County prosecutors said Joshua Fithian and his girlfriend, Gabriella Laws, both 19, attacked Robert Laws in January 2021 with a metal meat tenderizer and a wooden rod. The Sarpy County Attorney’s Office dismissed charges of attempted murder, second-degree assault, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit a felony against the two. 

Under state sentencing guidelines, Fithian and Gabriella Laws must serve 20 years before they are eligible for parole and 25 years before they must be released.

Gabriella Laws.jpg

Gabriella Laws

Police responded to a home northeast of 48th Street and Nebraska 370 shortly after 2 a.m. Jan. 17, according to an affidavit filed by Bellevue Police Detective Michael Legband. An officer found Robert Laws, who is 60, in his bedroom with severe injuries to the left side of his face.

Laws’ wife, Maria, who was sleeping in a separate bedroom, said she was awakened by a noise and found a wooden rod in the hallway. She then found her husband unresponsive in bed and a meat tenderizer on the floor. His CPAP mask still was secured to his face.

The detective said Robert Laws was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center with injuries so severe that he had to be placed in a medical coma to treat brain bleeding and cranial fractures. Police suspected that Robert Laws was attacked while he was sleeping.

Laws later went to the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. He told police who interviewed him there on Feb. 10 that he didn’t remember the attack, but he “thought Josh may have been responsible” based on a previous argument.

Officers questioned Fithian, who indicated that he, Maria, Robert and Gabriella had an argument regarding Fithian’s history of sneaking in and out of the Laws’ home. Gabriella’s parents had told him to not be in the house between midnight and 7 a.m.

According to Fithian, after dinner on Jan. 16, he and Gabriella Laws went to the basement until 12:45 a.m. Fithian said he left through a basement window because he was there later than the prescribed time. Gabriella Laws told police that Fithian had left through the front door of the home.

While being questioned by police about the attack, Gabriella Laws said, “I mean, I don’t think it was my mom, and I don’t know, I didn’t do it, but if I did in my sleep I don’t know.” Asked by police if she would be capable of assaulting her father, even accidentally, she said, “I hope not.”

Asked to clarify her response, she said, “Well, if I did, well not, I mean, I hope I would have never done that.”

Maria and Robert Laws filed a protection order against Fithian on Jan. 20. The protection order said Fithian had told the Lawses on Jan. 16 that he “wasn’t going anywhere” and planned to come into the house whenever he wanted.

Gabriella Laws gave birth to a child while in jail in October. A judge ordered a DNA test to determine whether Fithian is the father. Court records filed later say Fithian is the father. The child is under the care of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

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