18-40 years for wife’s murder
By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer
MOUNT CLEMENS A Sterling Heights man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and felony firearms charges in the death of his wife learned his fate April 23.
Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski sentenced Gjin Kolbucaj, 43, to 18-40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge and two years for the firearms charge, with credit for time served. The sentences run consecutively.
As Kolbucaj has already been incarcerated for 754 days, he has, in essence, already served the firearms charge, and has served about three weeks on the murder charge. He is set for deportation back to his native Albania once released.
The sentencing marks the end of a complex and lengthy case that began in March 2006, when Kolbucaj fatally shot his wife, Ljulja, in the head and chest, then turned the gun on himself.
The incident occurred in the couple’s home in the Plum Creek Condominium complex, near 16 Mile and Schoenherr, while the Kolbucajs’ two young children were in school.
Relatives of Ljulja Kolbucaj looked on from the audience as sheriff’s deputies led Gjin Kolbucaj, shackled and dressed in yellow jail garb, into the courtroom.
Mark Pellecchia who served as co-counsel for Kolbucaj, along with R. Emmet Hannick requested a sentence of 18-30 years, describing Kolbucaj as a dedicated, church-going family man who met his wife in Albania and came to the United States to seek a better life.
“Gjin suffers from a severe mental illness, your honor,” he said, noting that Kolbucaj saw a doctor and took medication for depression but did not receive sufficient treatment. “Unequivocally, Gjin did love his wife and loves his children.”
Pellecchia said Kolbucaj was “suffering from a psychosis” when he shot his wife. Besides shooting himself the day of the murder, causing non-life-threatening injuries, Kolbucaj also attempted suicide while housed at the Macomb County Jail “by diving off the bunk and hitting his head on the cement,” he said.
That incident resulted in his transfer to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry. The facility initially declared him incompetent for trial, but later reversed that position, after Kolbucaj spent months on medication, said Pellecchia.
Speaking through an interpreter, Kolbucaj expressed remorse for his actions.
“It’s a very big tragedy for me, and a tragedy for me to be alive,” he said. “None of these things were done intentionally. Me, at that moment, I did not know what I was doing. I lost my family, I lost my job, I lost everything I had I lost my life. There’s nothing else I can say.”
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Servitto said Ljulja Kolbucaj’s relatives did not wish to address the court, as victims’ families sometimes do prior to sentencing.
“This crime, this murder, speaks for itself,” he said.
According to Servitto, Ljulja Kolbucaj’s family will care for the couple’s two children.
Kolbucaj pleaded guilty to second-degree murder March 5, just as the jury selection process for his trial was beginning. His sentencing, originally scheduled for April 16, was delayed a week due to confusion over his transfer from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.
As he handed down the sentence, Switalski said the numerous delays in the case over the past two years were partially due to the complexity of the case, and due to a desire to treat Kolbucaj fairly.
“This is certainly a tragic situation,” he said. “This is a very destructive thing that Mr. Kolbucaj has done not just to his family, but to himself.”
“I think it’s important that the family finally got closure,” said Servitto. “This was a case with a tortured history of two years. I think it’s important that they can put it behind them.
“He’ll be serving serious time with the Department of Corrections,” he continued. “He is somebody our community doesn’t have to worry about anymore, because he’s not going to step foot in this country as a free man ever again.”
You can reach Staff Writer Cortney Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (586) 498-1046.