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Kehoe gets life

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | DECEMBER 16, 2009 7:30 AM

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INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — For most of his wife’s murder trial, Eugene Kehoe has sat straight-faced.

But on Tuesday, he wiped his eyes as he waited for his wife’s sentencing.

First District Judge Bruce Zager sentenced Michelle Kehoe, 36, to life in prison without parole in the death of her 2-year-old son, Seth Kehoe.

“Such great sadness, my friends, sums up the events of the last year,” Eugene Kehoe said, his words punctuated by sobs.

As he stepped down from delivering the statement, he asked Zager if he could give his wife a hug. Zager refused the request.

Both Eugene and Michelle Kehoe spoke before the court for the first time Tuesday.

In November, a Grundy County jury found Michelle Kehoe guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and child endangerment causing injury. Kehoe drove both her sons to a remote area near Littleton, Iowa, in October 2008. She put duct tape on the boys’ eyes, noses, and mouths and cut their necks with a hunting knife.



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Michelle Kehoe then cut her own neck in a suicide attempt. Though Seth died, Sean, then 7 years old, survived.

“I am truly sorry,” Michelle Kehoe said at her sentencing Tuesday, barely understandable through her weeping. “I love my children with all my heart. I deeply regret what I have done.”

In addition to receiving life in prison without parole for first-degree murder, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison and 10 years in prison for the other two counts. These two sentences may be served concurrently but served consecutively to the life term.

During her sentencing in Independence, defense attorneys asked the judge to impose the minimum penalties permitted by law. Life in prison without parole is a mandatory sentence for first-degree murder, but the judge has some discretion in terms of monetary fees and the no-contact order already in place.

Zager had ordered that neither Sean Kehoe, nor any family members or anyone who lived with him, could have any contact with Michelle Kehoe.

Eugene Kehoe asked Zager to allow written contact between him and his wife so he could update her on Sean’s progress and to deal with the property they still shared.

Zager declined to change the order, which will be in place for five years.

Eugene Kehoe was the only person who spoke at the sentencing.

“Not an hour goes by without thoughts of Seth. We try to visit him at least twice a week,” he said. “Not only has Sean lost a brother, but he has lost a mother. I have lost my wife and best friend.”

Michelle Kehoe, dressed in white and orange stripes, sat crying as her husband spoke.

At her trial, the former UI Hospitals and Clinics pharmacy technician pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Though the jury rejected the defense, Kehoe’s long and undisputed history of mental illness was repeatedly mentioned Tuesday.

Zager was unsympathetic.

“It was your decision to terminate [mental-health] services, but they were available to you,” he told Kehoe. “Many people don’t have those services available.”

Kehoe can appeal the ruling within 30 days.


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