Emotions run high at sentencing of attorney's killer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
By Theresa D. Mcclellan
The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS — His words said he was sorry. But the excuses uttered by Kevin Elder, the estranged husband and killer of local attorney Tina Partee-Elder, spoke volumes to the victim's family.
At his sentencing Monday, Kevin Elder blamed his "deep depression, anti-depressant drugs and substance abuse" for the Aug. 21 2007, stabbing death of the attorney.
"I'm deeply ashamed, sorrowful and embarrassed by the whole situation. I understand your pain and hatred of me and all I can say is, I'm sorry … . I was in such an incapacitated state, I murdered my wife. I didn't know who I was or where I was," Elder said.
But Kent County Circuit Judge James Robert Redford noted that Elder, 46, was declared competent and aware of his actions at the time of his knife attack against Partee-Elder, 41, who had a restraining order against him.
"You see what a manipulator he is, even to the end? He doesn't care," said Bette Partee, the victim's mother, after Elder was ordered to spend 30 to 75 years in prison.
Elder earlier pleaded guilty to murdering his wife, in part to keep her children off the witness stand. He had expected a lesser sentence for his second-degree murder plea.
But Partee's former husband and the father of her children, Fabian Newland; her brother, Terry Partee; and Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Bramble told the judge the maximum 30-year sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder with the possibility of parole did not factor in the brutality of the knife attack.
"This was not an isolated act of domestic violence," Bramble said.
The medical examiner determined the victim had cuts "deep inside her throat," noted Bramble.
Her children, ages 9 and 11, who were home at the time of the attack, had bloody hand imprints on the backs of their T-shirts, Bramble told the judge. Elder forced the children into the basement of the home the night of the murder.
Emotions ran high in the courtroom Monday. One of the victim's relatives shouted "coward" as Elder made his statement, prompting the judge to halt the proceedings and warn against further outbursts.
Elder had a good life before he lost his job two years ago and turned to drugs and alcohol, according to defense attorney Robert Mirque. The night of the murder, he was high on cocaine, according to his lawyer. Partee-Elder filed for divorce in June 2007 and, by July, had filed a restraining order.
During sentencing, Redford noted that for the second week in a row "it is my duty to sentence a man for murdering his wife. I cannot begin to comprehend how a man can do this."
Redford agreed with the prosecutor that the brutality of the crime would have far-reaching consequences into the children's psyches, though it is unknown what they saw. He told the court he was familiar with Partee, who served as a public defender and later worked in private practice.
"You extinguished a bright light," the judge said to her killer. "Tina is a very accomplished lawyer and truly fine person."
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