Early in the morning of May 25, Nathan Thomas Lehman broke into his parents’ Eden Prairie home. He stabbed them both nearly 60 times with screwdrivers then fled. His parents, Robert and Debra, were found dead on a bathroom floor holding hands, comforting each other in the last moments of life.
Lehman’s family filled the right half of a court gallery on Monday morning as a judge sentenced him to 61 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
“The pain and grief they’re feeling is maybe just starting to heal,” Judge Jamie Anderson told Lehman about his family, as some of them wept.
In court, their family described a couple who enjoyed simple pleasures, like picking berries and riding ATVs at a Wisconsin cabin or playing cribbage. Robert Lehman was a school bus driver for the Eden Prairie school district, and Debra Lehman was a cashier. The couple, in their late 50s, were “Papa Bob and Grandma Debbie” to the two children Lehman will leave behind when he goes to prison.
The 38-year-old Lehman had a history of mental illness, domestic violence and drug abuse, but his parents never gave up on him. They repeatedly tried to get him into treatment and let him live in their home. His father committed Lehman to treatment in December 2016. But in April, Lehman asked his father to release him. His father complied, but a week later his son went missing. On May 9, a judge again ordered Lehman to go to treatment in a locked psychiatric unit. At that point, according to court records, his parents lived in fear of him.
“My brother did everything in his power to help him try to turn his life around,” Robert Lehman’s sister, Barb Schilling, told the judge, asking for a life sentence.
Lehman’s 8-year-old son wrote a letter to the judge that his maternal grandmother read Monday, describing a father who “used to be fun when he took his medicine.”
But when Lehman started using drugs, the boy wrote, he spoke to imaginary people. The boy defended his mother as his father beat her. After the murders, the boy said he was so afraid of his father that he feared going to sleep. He asked the judge for a sentence that would make him feel safe again.
“Most kids want to grow up and be like their dad. I don’t,” the boy wrote.
As his family members spoke to the judge, Lehman stared blankly and unmoved, occasionally looking down at his lawyer’s notes.
When Judge Anderson asked if Lehman had anything to say, he said in a voice barely audible in the room, “No, your honor.”
After the judge sentenced Lehman to two terms of 367 months — one for each parent — three sheriff’s deputies walked him out of the courtroom.
With good behavior, Lehman could be eligible for release when he’s 78 years old.