Markus Kaarma Sentenced to 70 Years
Following a hearing in which Judge McLean denied the defense team's request for a retrial (as well as a change in the charge), Markus Kaarma was sentenced to 70 years with no option for parole until 20 years have been served.
Kaarma was found guilty of deliberate homicide in the death of Diren Dede, a German exchange student, back in December.
Rendering his decision, Judge McLean cited incidents in which Markus Kaarma intimidated others or expressed violent behavior. He described using misdemeanor theft as justification for murder "inexplicable." Looking at Kaarma's behavior throughout his life, McLean came to the conclusion that he just isn't a nice person. McLean described his dilemma as figuring out where we can trust a man like Kaarma in society, and that given past behavior we cannot--and could not for some time. After delivering the sentence, McLean reminded Kaarma that eligibility for parole does not guarantee parole, cautioning Kaarma that if his attitude remains the same he can expect not to be paroled at all--which would make him 100 when his sentence is up.
Detective Guy Baker took the stand to testify that he does not believe Kaarma feels any remorse for killing Dede. The Missoula County Jail monitors Kaarma's phone calls as standard practice, and Baker revealed that during conversations with his common-law wife, Janelle Pflager, Kaarma seemed to "relish the notoriety" of being a murderer. Kaarma told Pflager that other inmates looked at him with respect. During a conversation at the end of December, Kaarma expressed outrage that he deserves to be recognized as an American hero.
Defense brought back Dr. Douglas Johnson, an expert witness they used during the trial, to testify that Kaarma is not a dangerous man and that he does feel remorse. Johnson asserts that Kaarma's social anxiety, coupled with his cultural background as an Asian man, makes it difficult for him to adequately express feelings of shame or remorse. Johnson further claimed that psychological evaluations of Kaarma for the pre-sentencing report are not sufficient to make a proper risk assessment of Markus Kaarma.
During cross-examination, the state asked if Dr. Johnson was aware of an incident in North Dakota where Kaarma attacked his wife, Janelle Pflager, causing her to need medical attention. They also asked if he was aware of an incident in which Kaarma urinated on a man whom he believed was spreading rumors about him. Johnson was aware of both, but does not believe they are indicators of violent behavior or that Kaarma could be considered dangerous. He asserts that people with social anxiety will avoid stress or confrontation.
Janelle Pflager also took the stand for the defense to read a prepared statement in which she called Kaarma "the most misunderstood man" she had ever met. She characterized Kaarma as a devoted, family man who felt threatened by the burglaries that had happened at their home--claiming that Kaarma only acted on the night of April 27, 2014 to protect her and their son. She further asserted that no shooting would have occurred had Dede not entered their garage, emphasizing that neither she nor Kaarma could have known the intentions of the person who entered their garage. She closed by expressing sorrow to Dede's parents.
In a cross examination, the State asked Pflager about a phone conversation she had with Kaarma several days ago about restitution for the Dede family, in which she said "we aren't paying to ship their dirty rat son back home." Pflager claimed not to recall what she said during the conversation.
Dede's parents gave their testimony back in December following the trial, uncertain they would be able to travel to Missoula from Germany for sentencing. Dede's father was in attendance today.