Last-minute plea change falls flat in the killing of Carolyn Leete last March.
The killer of a St. Paul nanny tried to withdraw his guilty plea Thursday in an 11th-hour stall, but a Ramsey County judge proceeded to hand down a sentence of more than 32 years to Brent L. Lynch.
District Judge Robyn Millenacker rejected Lynch's new claims of innocence and said, "Carolyn Leete suffered a savage attack and beating by you that caused her death."
It was a slaying so brutal and with so many injuries, the judge said, that the crime scene photos were difficult to view.
Lynch, 26, of St. Paul, who has a history of assaulting women, was convicted of second-degree intentional murder. He pleaded guilty in September to slaying Leete last March at his home in the 800 block of E. Minnehaha Avenue.
He will serve more than 21 years in prison and the rest on supervised release.
"I just want the family to know that I'm sorry for what has happened, but justice has not been served 100 percent," Lynch told the court.
He claimed the killer "is still out on the streets, and the Lord knows that."
Millenacker didn't buy it, nor did 40 relatives and friends in the courtroom who had sought justice for Leete, 32, described as a loving and generous woman. She dated Lynch for a few years.
Prosecutors Dave Hunt and Dan Vlieger objected to Lynch's motion, which he sent to the court himself without an attorney's counsel at the last minute, claiming he was "pressured and coerced" into entering an Alford plea of guilt.
In such pleas, a defendant doesn't admit the act but admits the state could likely prove the charge.
Lynch claimed Thursday that he had inadequate counsel from first one attorney and then another, and that he didn't understand his rights. Both the prosecution and the judge pointed out that he had signed court papers saying he had been adequately represented and did know his rights and the consequences of entering a guilty plea.
Hunt told the judge that Lynch was manipulative and stalling. The prosecutor said the state's case would be prejudiced if Lynch could withdraw his plea, because when he pleaded guilty the investigation had been halted, subpoenas for witnesses canceled and a grand jury not convened to consider a first-degree murder indictment.
"The case has gone cold," he said, adding that continuing it would cause hardship for Leete's family.
In an emotional victim impact statement, Sheila Leete told the court that she thought about her daughter's fear and isolation while being attacked.
"I think of her feelings of abandonment, utter betrayal, hurt, despair. I think of her pain, both physical and mental. I think of her lying there dying and no one calling 911," Sheila Leete said.
She also told the judge: "Whatever the sentence, it is not enough. Nothing will bring back the caring, creative, nonjudgmental person that was Carolyn."
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038