Wisconsin man sentenced to two consecutive life sentences
Vicki Seliger Swenson offered the only victim impact statement and convicted murderer Steven Van Keuren sat silently while Judge Elizabeth Martin sentenced him to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release Thursday afternoon in a Washington County courtroom.
Van Keuren, of River Falls, Wis., was convicted Wednesday when the jury returned verdicts of guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Teri Lee and Tim Hawkinson Sr. Van Keuren shot both in Lee's West Lakeland Township home Sept. 22, 2006.
Van Keuren said that he had gone to the home to commit suicide in front of Lee, after she had ended a relationship with him.
Van Keuren said the plan went awry when Hawkinson confronted him, and he killed Hawkinson in defense, and then became enraged when Lee told him that she had miscarried their child, and killed Lee.
The jury rejected his defense, and returned two first-degree murder convictions.
Swenson's victim impact statement brought many to tears in the courtroom Thursday afternoon, as she attempted to describe what the loss of her sister has meant to her family, and especially Lee's four children. Lee's husband Ty was killed in a car wreck in November 2001, and the children are now living as part of Seliger Swenson's family.
The physical and financial toll of adding four children, ages 12, 10, 8 and 6, to the family is tremendous, Seliger Swenson said. But the emotional toll is profound.
"As for the physical impact on our lives, I think it is fair to say that Teri's murder has aged each one of us, including how quickly her children have to deal with mature issues," Seliger Swenson read from a statement that was distributed around the courtroom.
Her parents have become ill and listless. The children suffer from sleepless nights and night terrors, and illnesses brought on by weakened immune systems.
While Lee's entire family suffers from her loss, it is her children who will not have their mother with them as they move past the milestones in their lives, Seliger Swenson said.
Seliger Swenson completed her statement by saying that regardless of the judgment passed against Van Keuren by the court, "the ultimate Judgment day will come when Steven Van Keuren passes this earth and meets our Creator," Seliger Swenson wrote.
During sentencing, Martin said, "This case represents a terrible tragedy for our community," and asked whether anything positive could come from such a tragedy.
Addressing Van Keuren, she said, "You believe one way and others believe another way," regarding his statement that he went to the Lee home to commit suicide.
"The positive notes that can be taken from the trial are twofold," Martin said.
"In one regard, the publicity about the trial should make other individuals whose personal situations make them contemplate suicide or are aggressively pursuing a relationship that is over think twice about the choices that they make, given the result of the choices that Van Keuren made," she said.
"Also, it has raised the issue of the need for law enforcement officials to collaborate when there are orders for protection, which Lee had, whether they are criminal or civil orders," Martin added.