Markus Kaarma was sentenced to 70 years in prison Thursday morning for the murder of Diren Dede, a 17-year-old German exchange student who Kaarma shot in his Grant Creek garage last spring.
He will not be eligible for parole for 20 years, Missoula District Judge Ed McLean said.
"(Your anxiety) doesn’t excuse the anguish you have caused. Anxiety isn’t an excuse," McLean said. "You didn't protect your residence, you went hunting. And here you have a 12-gauge shotgun that’s loaded. Not to protect your family, but to go after somebody."
"You are angry because someone stole your grass," McLean said. "You are angry at the world, and it’s evident in your behavior."
Kaarma was convicted of deliberate homicide after a three-week trial in December.
Flanked by his team of attorneys, he stood stoically facing the judge as McLean handed down the sentence. Montana law allowed for a sentence between 10 and 100 years.
His attorneys asked the judge for a significantly lighter sentence of 40 years – all suspended but five, while prosecutors asked for 80 years with no possibility of parole until 40 years.
"I'm sorry my actions took the life of Mr. Dede," Kaarma said directly prior to sentencing. "I did what I thought was necessary for my family and myself. I hope no one else is put in that position again."
McLean said he recognized that prior burglaries of Kaarma's home "set the this tragedy on course," but noted that never once did the burglars break into a locked car or enter a closed garage.
He said Kaarma's pre-sentence investigation, which highlighted a prior assault on his partner, Janelle Pflager, and an incident in high school where he urinated on a fellow student, alarmed him.
"You are just not a very nice person," McLean said.
Dede's father, Celal, along with German attorney Bernhard Docke, were present for the sentencing. Celal said he was relieved that justice was served, but Kaarma's sentencing doesn't alleviate the profound grief he and his family are living through.
"I am not happy," Celal Dede said. "I am not happy. My son is dead. (Kaarma's) alive, he's living. He go in jail, but he is living. My son is dead. I'm not happy."
"It's over. Of course, we are happy it's finished, we must go back to home and family and go on," Dede said, listlessly. "Life in the future is very broken. Life … is not good."
Docke noted the family has hired Missoula attorney David Paoli to represent them in a civil lawsuit filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court. (See related story.)
"I think the problem with Kaarma is that he showed no remorse and appeared to be self-righteous," Docke said. "And it appeared that he didn’t realize he acted in a very evil way, and he destroyed a family and put a whole family in a state of devastating grief for a lifetime. And so I have no compassion for him."
Both Kaarma's mother, Chong Oak Kaarma, and Pflager pleaded with the judge for a lenient sentencing on the behalf of Kaarma's 19-month son.
Chong Oak described Kaarma's childhood as a joyful one and noted that the young boy always would make the family laugh. She said she knows her son and he would never kill anyone on purpose, describing the court proceedings against him as a "nightmare." She also noted the devastation that has plagued her family since the shooting.
"Our lives are shattered," she said. "Our family is damaged for many, many generations to come."
She apologized to the Dede family for the loss of their son, claiming she wanted to approached Celal and his wife Gulcin to apologize during the trial, but was prohibited from doing so by Kaarma's attorneys. To approach them with condolences would have been construed as guilt, she explained.
She said she was not proud of the "foul language" and the intimidating behavior exhibited by her son in the days leading up to the shooting. Her son didn't look at her while she delivered her emotional testimony.
"I'm sorry this tragedy makes the entire community heartbroken," she said. "I just wish from this day forward, this community moves forward and (gets) closure and starts to heal."
She left immediately after McLean handed down the sentence.
When Pflager took the stand, she explained that Kaarma is "misunderstood." When she met the man, he was a generous and concerned person.
In their move to Missoula, Pflager explained they were attempting live out the American dream and "lay down our roots," but now their baby boy is receiving death threats and their neighborhood has become unwelcoming.
"I wish this community would try and put themselves in our shoes," Pflager said. "And at the end of the day, I wish for fairness."
She took partial responsibility for a domestic assault in 2012, in which Kaarma injured her so severely she had to seek medical treatment.
"I will tell you I was in no way innocent in the matter," she said. "I can provoke and instigate like the rest of them."
She said her heart "breaks" for the Dede family.
She was cross-examined by prosecutor Karla Painter, who pointed to a recorded jail conversation between Pflager and Kaarma during which they discussed reimbursing the Dedes for funeral expenses.
"We aren't paying them to ship their own dirty rat son back," Pflager said in the recording.
The defense also called Dr. Douglas Johnson, who testified on Kaarma's behalf during his trial and interviewed Kaarma three separate times.
By phone, Johnson testified Thursday that Kaarma isn't a danger to the community, despite suffering from anti-social disorder and anxiety and "rearranging his life" so he wouldn't have to deal with people.
"I am confident that Markus Kaarma was remorseful," Johnson said. "He has strong feelings, but has difficulty expressing that."
Both of Diren Dede's host parents, Kate Walker Smith and Randy Smith, testified prior to sentencing, emotionally retelling how the loss of their beloved host son has affected them personally.
They were close with the teen, who immediately called them "Mom" and "Dad" and shared with them his dreams for the future.
"Diren's murder has turned (our lives) into a whirlwind of shock, grief and sadness," Randy said. "It's one of those things that you see on the TV news, not here, not to us. It's literally sucked all the joy out of our family. Every day is a grind now. We just do what we have to do to get through the day."
Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker testified that the case was unusual, not only because Kaarma spoke about shooting someone before the incident, but because he didn't perceive Kaarma to show any remorse.
The police department has been monitoring Kaarma's conversations from jail, where he apparently "relishes the notoriety of being a murderer."
"In one conversation on Dec. 28," Baker said, "he referred to himself as an American hero, but said he wasn't being treated as a hero."
The sentencing came directly after McLean denied the defense team's motion for a new trial, rejecting their arguments that prejudicial media coverage tainted jurors' opinions of their client.
McLean also denied two other motions made by the defense, one of which requested his conviction be amended to mitigated homicide.