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Sept. 30, 2006: Goelz sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder

OLIVIA -- Dirk Lionel Goelz, 44, was sentenced Friday to life in prison, just hours after a Renville County jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the Jan. 30 shooting death of Kerri Marie Robinson, 36.

The jury of seven women and five men found Goelz guilty of first-degree murder, past pattern of domestic abuse. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence.

The jury also returned a guilty verdict to a charge of manslaughter in the first degree, also referred to as voluntary or "heat of passion" manslaughter.

The jury found Goelz not guilty of first-degree murder, premeditated; and second-degree murder, intentional.

Goelz had been accused of fatally shooting Robinson in the home they shared in rural Franklin. Robinson was planning to move out and the two were arguing when Goelz grabbed a shotgun and fired at her as she fled to the basement of the house, according to testimony presented during the trial.

Only moments after hearing the sentence, Goelz told the court that he wanted to express his "sincere apologies" to the victim's parents, Louis and Janice Robinson, and their family. "I am deeply sorry that this happened,'' said Goelz.

Seven uniformed sheriff's officers were in the courtroom as Goelz, members of his and Robinson's families and several jurors heard District Judge Bruce Christopherson issue the sentence.

Goelz will not be eligible for parole for 30 years, according to prosecuting attorney Matthew Frank of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.

Defense attorney Joseph Tamburino indicated that he will appeal. He filed a motion shortly after the jury returned its verdicts asking the court for an acquittal of the first-degree murder conviction.

Tamburino told the court that the jury's verdicts are "inconsistent.'' He will also appeal the verdict on the claim that one of the jury's questions posed during deliberations was answered incorrectly by the court.

The jury began its deliberations Thursday afternoon and brought three questions to the court on elements of the case. Tamburino said that the jury had reached its guilty verdict to the first-degree murder, domestic abuse charge on Thursday night. It resumed deliberations on Friday morning and reached its verdicts on the three other charges, he said.

The jury's verdicts were read to the defendant shortly after 11 a.m. and sentencing was held at 2 p.m.

Before the sentence was issued, members of the Robinson's family told the court about the suffering they've experienced as a result of her violent death.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank read a statement from Robinson's mother, Janice, in which she described the intense fear she continues to experience. Her statement also related the agony that she and her husband, Louis, experienced when delivering the news of their daughter's death to Robinson's four children. Two of the children lived with Robinson and Goelz and were attending school when the shooting occurred.

"We heard the screams and cries when they were told,'' wrote Janice Robinson. "We still have flashbacks of that day.''

The loss of her daughter has left her feeling "empty and alone. ... Nothing will fill that void,'' Janice Robinson wrote.

Family members spoke of Kerri Robinson as someone whose presence "lit up a room.'' They described her as someone who had many friends and was always there for others. "If there was love needed, she was the first in line to deliver it,'' said Jennifer Kopischke, a niece.

"She wore her heart on her sleeve,'' said Jan Egge, Robinson's sister. "I would like someone to tell me how I am supposed to live the rest of my life without her, my sister,'' Egge told the court.

After leaving the courtroom, Egge told reporters that the trial has been extremely difficult for family members.

She suggested that the verdicts help bring some closure. "It's like her life is ending again,'' said Egge. "Tomorrow has to be a new day for the family, a day to start the healing, finally,'' she said.

She added that family members have decided they will work to promote awareness about domestic abuse and violence.

Jury selection in the case had begun Sept. 18 and testimony started Sept. 22. The jury heard three days of testimony this past week, before final arguments were presented and deliberations began on Thursday.