Diren Dede's parents told a packed courtroom Thursday that their son's death at the hands of a Missoula man left them broken-hearted, and their lives destroyed.
The man convicted of the teenager's murder responded with an apology for the fatal shooting last April 27 – and the pain it caused Celal and Gulcin Dede.
"It was a terrible time for my family," said Markus Kaarma. "I was so scared. No one was supposed to get hurt. If I could go back and change it I would."
"I'm so sorry for your loss," he said, looking at Dede's parents. "I am so sorry for the loss of Diren."
Kaarma, 30, was convicted of deliberate homicide Wednesday for killing the German exchange student, who was searching for alcohol in Kaarma's Grant Creek garage.
Prosecutors asked the court to allow Dede's parents to give their victims' statements Thursday before leaving the country Saturday morning.
Kaarma sat with his head down – flanked by his five attorneys – for the duration of the statements, which were made through a Turkish translator.
"His American dream started when he was 14," Celal said. "America was a dream for him. He wanted to be special and he wanted to learn English. After a lot of hard work, we could meet his American dream and send him to America."
Celal Dede said his son loved his time in Missoula and enjoyed the friends he made at Big Sky High School. He considered Missoula "like a heaven" and the parents were happy for their only son.
But the news of their son's death devastated the family and crushed their dreams for a future, the father said.
"We don't have plans for the future anymore," he said. "Our heart is broken. Diren didn't deserve this death."
He said that most of his family – including Diren's two sisters – are suffering psychologically, and that he and his wife cannot work anymore.
Both he and his wife said in their native Turkish culture, it is very important for a family to have a son – a protector for their daughters.
After Diren's death, their daughters are wrecked emotionally and one of the young women couldn't bear to leave home to study at a university. She needed to stay with her parents.
"His sisters always believed he could protect them forever," Celal said. "Our daughters' future plans and dreams were broken, too. Even though we are happy (Kaarma) is going to jail, nothing can bring our Diren back. Our only hope is this guy who (committed) homicide will think in jail about what he has done (for) a long time. We expected (Kaarma's) mother to say she is sorry about Diren's death, but it didn't happen."
Though it's under terrible circumstances, Celal said, he was grateful for the outpouring of compassion and support from Missoulians.
Gulcin Dede took the stand after her husband and emotionally told the court how she spoke to Diren every day on the phone while he was in Missoula, and wanted to hug him and kiss him when he came back home.
"But I kissed his dead body rather than his live body," she said.
She said the last three weeks of trial have been an emotional time for the Dede family, while Kaarma acted like he did nothing wrong.
"That guy is looking at us and smiling at us like he didn't do anything," she said. "(Kaarma) didn't break a computer or anything, he killed a man. He took someone from our lives."
She described Diren as a leader among his peers who had no bad habits. Many parents wanted to have a child like him and many of his friends took up sports after he started playing soccer, she said. She expressed hope that God will grant other people a son like Diren.
"I am asking people how ... a human can survive and continue her life without part of her heart?" she asked. "But I am happy because Diren was a good boy."
In Missoula, she has spoken to many of her son's friends and she tries to connect with Diren through them, because "I couldn't touch him. I couldn't smell him. I was expecting to see him several months ago."
"A guy took our Diren from us," she said. "But I have thousands of Direns in Missoula. I can't talk anymore, thank you so much."
Kaarma's bail hearing is currently set for Wednesday before District Judge Ed McLean, who presided over the trial.
Sentencing guidelines for a deliberate homicide conviction range from a minimum of 10 years in prison to 100 years.