Bret Struck was baking cookies the night his obsessed ex-girlfriend gunned him down inside his Brooklyn Center home last February.
It was a typical act by the 41-year-old, the youngest of seven close-knit siblings who regularly opened his home and heart to friends and family. But the fact that it was also his last act before dying is one of many memories that has left them scarred, his family said Tuesday at the sentencing of his killer, Rochelle Inselman.
"I felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails and if I let go I would never come back," Struck's mother, Iola Mae Struck, said of her grief, while Inselman quietly looked on from a wheelchair. "I don't know why she had to do this."
Inselman, 39, of Eden Valley, Minn., pleaded guilty last week to second-degree intentional murder for shooting Struck eight times on Feb. 12. As part of a plea deal, she was sentenced to 40 years in prison Tuesday. She opted to say nothing to Struck family members, who took turns explaining how she harassed Struck for eight years after their 2004 breakup. When family members would express concern, his mother said, Struck would say, "'Oh Mom, she's not with it.'"
Charges say Inselman threatened Struck for years, including hacking into his Facebook account and sending defamatory e-mails to friends and family. She stole his identity to apply for several credit cards, ruining his credit.
Inselman admitted to killing Struck after she went to his house armed because she wanted to "discuss things with him." Once they started to argue, Inselman shot him, charges said. She dumped the gun and its box in a trash can at a highway rest stop. A maintenance worker found the box and turned it over to police, a move that prosecutors said was crucial to linking Inselman to the murder.
Inselman was stoic at the hearing, only turning with a slight smile to a few supporters as deputies wheeled her from the courtroom.
Hennepin County District Judge Marilyn Kaman urged the family to heal, while she told Inselman that she would have decades to reflect on the Struck family's statements, and the photos of "a vibrant, energetic and caring individual who for no reason was taken from us."
Iola Mae Struck said it's easy to dwell on the pain caused by Inselman, whom she called "the Evil One," but that it's time to move on.
"In the long run I won out; I had the most beautiful son there was," she said. "You're not worth it. We've given enough time to you."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921