Emotions ran high as family and friends read impact statements in the courtroom
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Andrew Dikken was sentenced to a life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to two counts of murder at a hearing Monday morning in Montevideo.
Dikken pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Kara Monson, 26, of Granite Falls, and to first-degree murder while committing a burglary in the death of Chris Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls.
When asked of his crimes, Dikken admitted that his purpose and intent for visiting Monson’s house on September 2 was for murder. He revealed that he was intoxicated and couldn’t remember many details, such as how many times he shot Monson and Panitzke. He also stated that he woke up on the banks of the river, although it was unclear if he meant the riverbed immediately outside the Monson house or the location where he took refuge in Renville County during the 15-day manhunt that ensued.
Dikken waived his right to forever use all defenses, including mental illness like previously attempted.
Dikken apologized for the lack of remorse he showed in the beginning of the case when he was given the opportunity to speak to his actions. “I’m sorry for all the lives I’ve wrecked. I take full responsibility for all that I’ve done.”
District Judge Thomas Van Hon responded to Dikken with the sentence.
“Mr. Dikken, you entered a home and killed two people,” Van Hon said. “I don’t think your profession of remorse today rings true to many of the people in this room. You will go to prison for the rest of your life.”
The defense asked for Dikken’s truck and the tools that already belonged to his father to be removed from evidence lockup and returned, the last request before ending the hearing.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dikken was transferred from the Yellow Medicine County jail in Granite Falls to the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections at St. Cloud.
Showing of support
The hearing was moved to the District Court in Montevideo to handle the assumed crowd that would appear, and as predicted, nearly a hundred grieving family members and friends filled the largest courtroom, adorning orange and white shirts for Chris and purple shirts for Kara.
The crowd was frequently moved to tears, including an audible gasp when Dikken’s first words other than “yes, your honor” was his seemingly-nonchalant retelling of his crimes.
“I went into the house and I woke both of them up and I shot them,” Dikken said, just the first of many peaks in the morning’s emotional roller coaster.
Family members of both Chris and Kara were able to share statements to the court, including memories that will bless and could-have-beens that will haunt them forever.
“I am living a father’s nightmare,” Tom Monson said, later proclaiming. “Lord, why were you not protecting Kara from the devil?”
Others chose their statements to serve as remembrances for the loved ones they had lost.
“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines,” Jamie Sheely, Kara’s sister, said. “She was beautiful deep down to her soul.”
Most of those who spoke were concerned with what would happen in the future, especially regarding Kara’s 6-year-old daughter and Chris’s 10-year-old daughter.
“No one should have to live without their mother or father,” Megan Panitzke, Chris’s sister said.
As Dikken left the courtroom, assumedly his last public appearance, an onlooker spoke the words that summed up the feeling that hung in the air: “Justice is served.”