Paragraph 14 reads: "In addition, Jorgensen was a decorated Gulf War veteran who was affected by his combat experience, Breen said. Jorgensen was battling alcoholism, taking medication for depression and showing problems with self-control, he said."
By: BY RANDY DOCKENDORF
HARTINGTON, Neb. — A rural Hartington, Neb., man will serve the next 17 to 20 years in the state prison for the April stabbing death of a Coleridge, Neb., man.
Troy Jorgensen, 35, was sentenced Monday in Cedar County District Court. He had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for causing the death of Joshua Kroc, 29, in an April 10 altercation. Jorgensen will received 244 days credit for time served in the Cedar County Jail in Hartington.
The Class 1B felony carried a possible sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
"(Joshua) Kroc was a good and decent man who did not deserve to die, and he died at the misdirected hand of this defendant," District Judge William Binkard said.
Binkard had sentenced Jorgensen to 34 to 40 years in prison, but Nebraska's truth-in-sentencing guidelines mean Jorgensen will be eligible for parole in 17 years. He will be eligible for mandatory release in 20 years.
Jorgensen will serve an additional 10 to 30 months in the state prison for improper burial of human remains. After causing Kroc's death, Jorgensen disposed of the body in a creek west of Verdigre, Neb.
Binkard sentenced Jorgensen to 20 to 60 months on the second count, with no credit for time served in the Cedar County Jail. The Class 4 felony carried a possible maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
The two sentences will run consecutively, meaning Jorgensen could be released in less than 18 years.
Jorgensen confessed to the killing and told authorities the location of Kroc's body. The April 16 recovery of the remains came after an intensive search in northeast Nebraska.
The fatal altercation arose over Kroc's relationship with Jorgensen's estranged wife, Angela, the defendant said. Jorgensen originally said the two men parted following the argument, and he didn't see Kroc again.
Despite confessing to the crime, Jorgensen later pleaded not guilty to
first-degree murder. He changed his plea last month when the murder charge was reduced.
Jorgensen addressed the Kroc family during Monday's sentencing. "There is no way to figure out how I can say I'm sorry. I didn't intend for anybody to be hurt," he said.
Defense attorney Kelly Breen asked the court to look at mitigating factors. He pointed to Jorgensen's military service, work record and desire to reunite with his wife and two stepchildren.
In addition, Jorgensen was a decorated Gulf War veteran who was affected by his combat experience, Breen said. Jorgensen was battling alcoholism, taking medication for depression and showing problems with self-control, he said.
"His family said he came back changed (from the war). He was prone to depression and prone to anger," Breen said.
Jorgensen's temper and jealousy led to his altercation with Kroc, Breen said. "What was a good motivation was turned into very bad actions," the attorney said.
"On the night in question, he did not set out to do anything but talk to Josh Kroc," Breen said. "What happened was tragic. He accepts responsibility."
Jorgensen showed sorrow for his action, Breen said. "He felt shame, he felt guilt and he felt genuine remorse," the lawyer said.
Jorgensen will use the prison time to improve himself, Breen predicted. "Someday, (Jorgensen) will return to what is left of his life. He will demonstrate he's a changed man," he added.
However, Jorgensen's remorse and desire to change will not bring back Kroc, Binkard said.
"(Kroc) was loved in the town of Hartington. He loved to bow hunt, golf, fix computers (for a Hartington telephone company) and run his fitness center," the judge said. "He was well liked by people in church and school, and by his friends and customers. He was beloved, gregarious, and a good and decent man."
Jorgensen had three convictions for assault and drunken driving, and his drinking had also cost him his job and marriage, Binkard said.
"His temper was worse when he consumed alcohol," the judge said. "On June 10, he was drinking when he killed Josh Kroc."
Jorgensen had confronted Kroc several times, with the last time coming when Kroc left his Hartington fitness center about midnight for his Coleridge home, Binkard said.
Kroc was talking to Angela Jorgsensen on his cell phone, noting her husband was trying to run Kroc off the road and was then waiting for Kroc on his arrival home.
"Those were (Kroc's) last words except for what was said to the defendant," Binkard said.
After the sentencing, Georgette Kroc said she had hoped for a life sentence for her son's murderer. However, she said she could accept the sentence.
"I think every mother feels it's not enough, but after (assistant attorney general) Corey O'Brien explained things to me, I think it's fair and all right," Mrs. Kroc said. "I'm at peace with it and need to move on. This provides closure."
The case has drawn widespread media attention, which Mrs. Kroc admitted was difficult. "To the public, it's drama, but to the parents, it's pain," she said.
The family continues receiving support from friends and neighbors, Mrs. Kroc said.
Cheri Morten, Kroc's friend and fitness-center employee, has set up the Joshua Kroc Scholarship Fund. The scholarship honors Kroc's commitment and love for working with young people, she said.
The scholarship will benefit one Hartington Public and one Cedar Catholic student annually beginning next spring, Morten said.
"There are dollars in it now to run for two years, but we need more dollars to make it ongoing. We hope to build an endowment," she said.
Donations can be sent to Morten at 109 W. Ken Miller Circle, Hartington NE 68739.
Kroc left a mark on many people in his short life, Morten said. "He will be sorely missed. He was a young man taken in the prime of life," she said.
Morten said she knows both families and realizes the Jorgensens are also going through a difficult time.
"I feel sorry for Troy's family. They will suffer for many years," she said