85 minus 20 by David Lias The man who beat and stabbed Mark Paulson of Vermillion, to death last summer will spend more than three decades, at least, behind bars in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
Chaske McDonough received an 85-year sentence Monday from Circuit Court Judge Art Rusch in the Clay County Courthouse.
Paulson's family was hoping McDonough would receive a life sentence without parole.
After Monday's sentencing, however, they expressed gratitude to those who helped bring McDonough to justice. And they thanked the Vermillion community for helping them cope with their loss.
McDonough pled guilty last November to first degree manslaughter for Paulson's death.
State's Attorney Tami Bern said 20 years of the 85 year sentence was suspended.
That means the earliest that McDonough could be eligible for parole would be 32 years and six months from now.
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The 20 year suspension is based on certain conditions, Bern said. "If he violates those conditions, they (the suspended years) will be re-imposed," Bern said. She added that when he finally is eligible for parole, it would not be granted automatically.
McDonough was arrested Aug. 16, 2002, three days after police were called to Paulson's home where his body was discovered.
McDonough was residing in the Lamplighter Motel, located next to the trailer court where Paulson made his home, at the time the killing occurred.
McDonough entered a not guilty plea to second degree murder after he was indicted on those charges by a Clay County grand jury Aug. 29. Second degree murder is a Class B felony that carries a mandatory life sentence.
His murder trial was scheduled to begin Dec. 16, 2002 in the Clay County Courthouse. In a plea agreement, McDonoughforfeited his rights to a trial in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to first degree manslaughter.
The maximum sentence for first degree manslaughter is life in prison.
"What the sentencing (on Monday) covered was his history of violence, and he tried to mitigate his culpibility by alleging that he was abused by a child, and suffered such severe abuse as a child that he had post traumatic stress syndrome," Bern said, "and that's why he reacted the way he did."
McDonough was partying with neighbors near a trailer adjacent to Paulson's on Aug. 11. When he left the party to return to the Lamplighter, he picked up a bottle and threw it, breaking a window in Paulson's trailer home.
Paulson confronted McDonough outside, then invited him in his home to discuss the damage. The meeting ended with McDonough beating and stabbing Paulson.
"Our argument was the claims (of post tramautic stress syndrome) were completely false," Bern said, "and that he was not accepting responsibility for what he did."
Paulson's parents, his brothers and sisters, and his nieces and nephews released this statement following Monday's sentencing:
"Our beloved son and brother, Mark Paulson, was killed by C. McDonough in an horrific, senseless act of violence. The awful truth that we must live with is that McDonough killed Mark because he could and that McDonough did so by beating and stabbing Mark to the point of death and then leaving Mark to die.
Of grave concern to us has been that we believe McDonough would kill again in this manner if given the opportunity because of his inhumane, violent nature. C. McDonough is a remorseless, irresponsible murderer and liar who brutalized our family by killing Mark and whose deceit and made up stories heaped additional pain on our already overwhelming grief.
As Mark's family, we have asked that C. McDonough would receive a life sentence in prison without parole so that no one else nor other family would have to suffer as Mark did or our family has at the hands of McDonough and that neither this community nor any of us would have to live in that fear.
Our family has wanted to do whatever possible to assist the law enforcement and public safety officials who daily strive to protect our society from violent individuals like C. McDonough. Our purpose in requesting that McDonough receive a life sentence in prison without parole was also for this reason. We thank all of those who carry out this worthy cause of community safety and criminal prosecution and who made us feel secure in it. We remember especially Kim Callahan, Andy Howe, Sean Feik, Dave Thiesse, Lowell Oswald, and Tami Bern in this regard. And, recognize Judge Rusch's essential role.
It is also important for us to express appreciation to the kind and caring people of Vermillion and all our friends who have sustained us with their many words and acts of comfort. We believe in and have experienced God's grace through you. Thank you for helping us honor Mark's life and sharing our trust in the justice sought for him.