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“Can someone, a kid or adult, do something so heinous that they forfeit their right to be a part of society? I think that’s the big question.”
Torture and nightmares
Jim and Jeanne Stuedemann were vacationing in northern Minnesota in July 2000 when Jessica found Jolene’s body. She had been stabbed 29 times with a screwdriver and raped. Roman Nose crammed newspaper into her mouth and throat to stifle her screams.
Jolene and Roman Nose were students at an alternative school in Cottage Grove, but knew each other only as acquaintances. During a recent hearing before the state Supreme Court, public defender Steven Russett said Roman Nose was “immature and suffered from poor judgment” when he committed the crime, and noted a dysfunctional childhood and fetal alcohol struggles. Russett couldn’t be reached for comment.
Minnesota Department of Corrections records show that Roman Nose has committed 15 violations at Oak Park Heights prison, including disorderly conduct, disobeying direct orders and assaulting another inmate. Some violations were serious enough that he served time in segregation.
Jim Stuedemann recalled what the medical examiner told him during the trial.
“He said very rarely does he have autopsies with that amount of injuries that were suffered,” Stuedemann said, his eyes filling with tears. “He said it was borderline torture. I asked him if she died quickly and he said no.”
Liz Hare, president of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers, said it’s critically important for families to know that killers will remain in custody and never threaten anyone again.
“There’s unnecessary suffering caused by Miller vs. Alabama,” said Hare, who lives in Minnesota. “They have to relive that whole experience all over again. There are hundreds of people who will have to face the offender again.”
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, director of Marsy’s Law for Illinois, a group that advocates for the rights of crime victims, said the law should take care of victims’ families more than teenage murderers.
“All of this focus is on the killer, the poor killer, the young killer,” she said. “There aren’t any words to tell you how bad it is. It’s retraumatizing. It’s torture. It’s a nightmare. There aren’t strong-enough words. To never have any legal finality in the case and have to keep revisiting it is nothing short of a torturous nightmare.”
Jim Stuedemann said he wishes he could post Jolene’s photo in Roman Nose’s cell to remind him of her “bright smile and sparkling eyes every day and know what he took.”
Of Roman Nose, he added: “He should never have hope.”
Staff writer Kevin Giles contributed to this article.
Callie Sacarelos is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.