After emotional statements from relatives and a plea for leniency, a Chisago County man was sentenced Friday to more than 13 years in prison for supplying the illegal drugs that killed Oakdale resident Danielle Jelinek.
Aaron Jude Schnagl, 31, was convicted in February of third-degree murder for providing the cocaine that killed Jelinek, 27, after a night of drinking, drugs and sex at Schnagl’s house in Chisago Lake Township. Her body was found five months later in a nearby swamp.
“My biggest fear was that we couldn’t find you,” Cory Jelinek, Danielle’s sister, said while delivering a victim statement to the court. “All I have now are photos and memories. Nobody expects a traumatic experience to occur in their life and sometimes I can’t believe it.”
Schnagl’s sentencing came after he told Judge Todd Schoffelman that he was subject to “vindictive prosecution,” that evidence in his case was mishandled, and that he didn’t receive a fair trial.
“I have to ask everyone if revenge and retribution mean more than the actual truth,” he said.
But prosecutor Nick Hydukovich said Schnagl deserved the maximum penalty for third-degree murder — which he received — because he lacked remorse and as a drug dealer “profited from the misery and addiction of others for years.”
Hydukovich said Schnagl gave Jelinek the fatal cocaine in December 2012 when he was on probation for a drug conviction, and that he was dealing large volumes of illegal drugs from his house in Chisago County.
“The defendant has done everything in his power to avoid responsibility for his crime,” Hydukovich said before sentencing.
The Jelinek family gave six victim impact statements to the court describing how much they missed their sister and daughter.
Danielle’s body was found on her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, said her mother, Jan Jelinek, of Cottage Grove.
“Don’t let anyone say it gives you closure,” she said of that day. “It’s simply a date on the calendar. Danielle was the essence of love. I miss her terribly.”
But defense attorney Melvin Welch said Schnagl was wrongly portrayed as being a malicious, evil man and said “demonizing” him overlooks Jelinek’s active drug use and her complicit role in her two-year relationship with Schnagl.
“Miss Jelinek made a choice, Miss Jelinek lived her own life, and she reaped the consequences,” Welch said.
Schnagl’s mother, Patti Nord, condemned drug addiction in her own statement to the court, but she also faulted prosecutors.
“Aaron’s not an animal, he’s a warm, caring, loving son,” she said. “I’ve heard so many lies but we can’t undo them.”
Jelinek was employed as a manager at the Wells Fargo branch bank in Maplewood at the time of her death. She was a runner despite a lifelong affliction with chronic asthma, and she was in the process of buying a house.
Her body was found in a shallow slough near a rural cul-de-sac in Chisago County, about a quarter-mile from Schnagl’s house.
While jurors found Schnagl guilty in February of third-degree murder in Jelinek’s death, they cleared him of a charge that he concealed her body, which would have meant a stiffer prison sentence had he been convicted of that.
Schnagl currently is serving seven years in prison on two previous drug convictions.
In the Jelinek case, he was given credit for about 3½ years already spent in custody, reducing his actual prison time on the conviction to about 10 years. Friday’s sentence will run concurrent with the other, shorter sentences.
“The days are filled with sorrow and sadness,” Jelinek’s brother Jason said in a statement read in court.