Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sparta, MI man sentenced to life without parole for strangling wife

In the conclusion of a trial extensively covered in the Grand Rapids, MI area, Kent County Circuit Judge James Robert Redford sentenced a 32 year old man to life without parole December 8 for bludgeoning, then strangling his wife, then dumping her nude body on the side of a road in 2004. The body was discovered by a passer by in southern Montcalm County January 3, 2005.

Julia Dawson, nee Keenan, was murdered December 11, 2004 by her husband of three years in their Sparta, MI home, and the killing was made worse by the two kids she left behind, one from a previous relationship, and the fact that the slaying took place on her parents' wedding anniversary. She was finally vindicated by both the sentence and by the presence of her family members in the courtroom.

A jolt went through the packed courtroom when a child psychologist read statements written by the Dawson children.

"Why did you kill my mom?" wrote Kevin Terrell, Julia Dawson's 9-year-old son from a relationship prior to her 2001 marriage to Timothy Dawson. "I feel sad that I did not protect my mom from you," he wrote. "I want to take the name Dawson off my mom's headstone."

Brittany Dawson, Tim Dawson's 12-year-old daughter from his first marriage, also asked why. Why did Dawson try to take Julia and Timothy's son, Alex, away to Texas? Why did he kill the stepmother who had been kind to her?

Meanwhile, Dawson stated, to the chagrin of his victim's family members, that he was innocent. His attorney, Charles Rominger, plans to appeal the conviction.

"I'm innocent -- I did not commit this crime.I know one day that will be proven, and I hope that one day the pain is taken out of their hearts and God blesses them all. Thank you."

Kevin and Tamara Keenan, Julia's parents, felt in their speech before Judge Redford that the guilty verdict handed down last month and the mandatory life without parole sentence finally will give them a chance to celebrate their wedding anniversary, which will always fall on the same day their daughter died.

"I plan to celebrate my anniversary on Dec. 11. We haven't been able to celebrate our anniversary for four years, and this will be the first time I feel like I'll be able to smile on that day."

The Keenans are caring for their grandson Alex and plan to seek full custody of him. Tammy Keenan also had harsh words for the killer who took her daughter's life.

"Murder is not an accident; it is a choice -- a selfish, vicious, arrogant choice."

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