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Family of murder victims speak as Dikken sentenced to life without parole

Andrew Dikken, 29, of Renville, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a judge accepted Dikken's guilty pleas in the Sept. 2 fatal shootings of Kara Monson, 26, and Chris Panitzke, 28, in Monson’s home in Granite Falls.

MONTEVIDEO — Not long before he fatally shot Kara Monson and Chris Panitzke, Andrew Dikken sent a cryptic text to Monson’s family stating “everyone is getting what they deserve.’’

“Andy Dikken is finally getting what he deserves,’’  Tim Sheely, a brother-in-law to shooting victim Kara Monson, told District Judge Thomas Van Hon on Monday in District Court in Montevideo.

Judge Van Hon sentenced Dikken, 29, of Renville, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after accepting his guilty pleas in the Sept. 2 fatal shootings of Monson, 26, and Panitzke, 28, in Monson’s home in Granite Falls.

Dikken pleaded guilty to a count of first-degree, premeditated murder in the death of Monson and a count of first-degree murder, while committing a burglary, in the death of Panitzke. The premeditated murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I would like to say I am sorry for all the lives I have wrecked,’’ Dikken told the court moments before sentencing. “I take full responsibility for what I have done.”

“I don’t think your professions of remorse today rings true to many people in this room,’’ the judge told Dikken shortly after pronouncing the sentence.

At the time of the killings, Dikken was upset that Monson had broken off their relationship of more than three years. He told the court he was heavily “boozed” when he entered Monson’s home as she and Panitzke slept in the early morning hours of Sept 2.

Dikken carried a loaded, .380-caliber pistol he had stolen from a family member, and extra ammunition.

He told the judge that he intended to kill the two, but momentarily debated “what I wanted to do’’ after entering the house.

“I went in and shot both of them. It was kind of a blur after that,’’ he told the court.

Dikken said he remembers waking up in the Minnesota River bottomlands, where a nearly 15-day manhunt was later conducted to find him.

Court records state that Dikken had also walked around the house and cut the gas line before leaving. Monson died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds. Shot five times himself, Panitzke waited until Dikken left to call 911 for help.

In court Monday, family members told the judge they wondered if that delay in obtaining medical help cost Panitzke his life.

Both families told the court that the killings have left them in sorrow, and with fears and heartache that cannot be healed.

“I am living a father’s worst nightmare,’’ said Monson’s father, Tom Monson.

Patrice Monson said her daughter paid the ultimate price for having ended a bad relationship. Kara Monson had witnessed Dikken use and sell drugs, and ended the relationship, Patrice Monson told the court.

Some spoke for victims too young to appear in court. Monson is survived by a 6-year-old daughter and Panitzke by a 10-year-old daughter. Dikken heads to prison leaving a young son.

Joyce Panitzke held her son’s hand as he took his last breath at a Twin Cities hospital after six days of fighting to survive. She had buried a 20-year-old son less than five years previous. She spends many sleepless nights asking questions without answers, she told the court in a letter read by a family member.

“My question to him and what I ask myself is why? I will never understand why.’’

Kara Monson’s brother-in-law Sheely said Dikken had sent texts in the days preceding the murder alluding to the fact that something tragic was to happen. Family members believed Dikken was out of the state at the time, and that he meant tragedy would fall on him.

Now, family members told the judge they are haunted by the many tragic images of what followed. Most of all, they said they remain devoted to protecting the children who lost a mother and father that day. They asked the judge to make certain Andrew Dikken never leaves prison.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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