Sunday, December 27, 2009

40 to 50 years for Daykin, NE man for choking wife to death

A man who overreacted to his wife's abuse was sentenced to a term of 40-50 years in prison by District Judge Paul Merritt Jr. Wednesday, December 23. 49-year-old Mark Ziemann said that "I know it was wrong. I'll regret it for the rest of my life."

Ziemann pled no contest to 2nd degree murder on October 2, 2009 under District Judge Paul Merritt Jr.

In the courtroom, Deputy County Attorney Amy Jacobsen said friends of Rhapsody Ziemann's reported her missing Dec. 13, 2007, after she asked them to watch her daughter, Daniella, the night of Dec. 10. She never returned to pick her up. Lincoln police searched her apartment at 3341 Holdrege St., where they now believe her husband killed her. A sheet was missing from the bed, along with her purse.

Investigators called her husband, who said he hadn't been to the apartment until he was told his wife was missing Dec. 13. He said he was with his brother. But his alibi quickly fell apart. His brother, Brent Ziemann, called investigators to say he wasn't with Mark - but was told to lie and say he was, Jacobsen said.

Brent Ziemann also said his brother told him he'd killed his wife and taken her body to his trailer house in Jefferson County, she said. Police found her body there Dec. 15, 2007, with blood on her mouth and marks around her neck. She had died of blunt force trauma to her head and asphyxia by manual strangulation.

Jacobsen said Ziemann asked an aunt to store a bag of things. When she turned it over to police, they found a bloody sheet, Rhapsody's purse and other items. She said police also obtained a note Ziemann left for his brother explaining what happened: When he kissed his wife, she bit his lip. Then "my fingers clenched around her throat for two agonizing minutes," Jacobsen said he wrote.

Ziemann's defense attorney Stuart Dornan said "Mr. Ziemann did a very bad thing under extraordinary circumstances," but that he wasn't a bad man. He went on to talk about how his client had struggled with Asperger's disorder, but managed to get through college and become a law abiding citizen.

Because Ziemann had suffered from extreme stress and potential harm from his wife, his client reacted in an "animalistic fashion." Two of Ziemann's supporters said that he "was used, abused, and didn't have sense to know it." and that the wife may have had his hands on the knife.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Joe Kelly said he didn't think that [the 20 year term asked for by the defense]was sufficient. Despite what his family and friends thought of Rhapsody, Kelly said, Ziemann seemed to have a sincere love for her. He didn't think he was exploited or mentally abused, as they told the judge they did.

Kelly asked District Judge Paul Merritt to focus on the difference in size between Ziemann, a tall man, and his wife, barely 5 feet tall. "He could have done things short of killing her to force her to release her grip. One kick, one hit, one slap would have taken care of the situation," he said. But Ziemann held her throat, even after she let go, and he killed her. Could the same thing happen again, Kelly asked. Probably not, he conceded. But maybe a road rage could. "We're not convinced that he has much insight into the act," he said.

Judge Merritt said that the circumstances in the leadup to the murder suggested that more had happened than just the defendant's version of the story. "I do believe he was in pain when he reacted, but he obviously overreacted," he said.

Rhapsody's cousin Rey Pacuno said that "We just really want justice for this. After two years, we have a response from the court. ... Let God decide the other."

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