Several women in pink T-shirts sat in the back of a Ramsey County courtroom on Thursday afternoon as the first person charged in connection with last year’s murder of Sarah Wierstad was sentenced for his role in the crime.
“RIP Sarah you were taken too soon,” the T-shirts said above a photo of Wierstad, 24. “You will never be forgotten.”
“This is a part of our healing,” Wierstad’s mother, Julie Zietlow, said afterward. “We’re at every court date.”
Wierstad’s friends and family were there to watch Isiah L. Harper’s sentencing on one count of aiding and abetting first-degree burglary. He pleaded guilty in March in Ramsey County. A count of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery was dismissed.
Bound by the terms of Harper’s plea agreement, Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro sentenced Harper to 5¾ years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint: Harper was at Wierstad’s apartment on Oct. 18 with alleged accomplices Alvin R. Bell and Albert G. McIntosh. Bell and McIntosh were inside the apartment in the 600 block of Bedford Street.
Bell called Harper to the front of the building to take some stolen items.
Wierstad arrived home from work and interrupted the burglary about 7:50 p.m. Harper told police that McIntosh pointed a gun at her, ordered her to her knees and told her to stop following the men as they ran to a car.
Wierstad pleaded for them to return her phone, and also said her 5-year-old daughter would be arriving home soon. McIntosh went back and four to five shots were fired.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Daniel Vlieger said Harper participated in the robbery to make money for his child’s birthday.
Harper’s attorney, Katie Allen, told the court that her client cooperated with police.
Harper apologized when it was his turn to speak.
“I never meant for someone to lose their life,” he said.
Harper, Bell, McIntosh and a fourth accomplice, Michelle Koester, were accused of conducting a violent crime spree that day that started at Wierstad’s apartment and ended in Hennepin County with additional robberies, burglaries and the killing of robbery victim Julio Mozo-Cuate, 42, at 10 p.m.
All four are charged in both counties.
Harper pleaded guilty in April in Hennepin County District Court to aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
The other cases are active.
“It’s going to be a long road,” Zietlow said. “Forgiveness doesn’t come that easily from us — if it ever comes. It may never come.”