Victim's family is relieved killer will spend most of his life in prison.
After killing his girlfriend by smashing her skull with a hammer in 2007, Mo Hicks carried her body from her apartment in a hockey equipment bag and buried her in a park in Brooklyn Park, prosecutors said.
Concealing the body was a particularly cruel act, Anoka County District Judge James Cunningham Jr. said Tuesday as he sentenced Hicks to 35 years in prison. How Hicks disposed of Judy Rush's body added 14 years to his sentence.
As he did throughout the trial, Hicks, 36, showed no emotion at the announcement.
Hicks took the rare step of representing himself in the murder trial and asked that a judge, not a jury, decide his fate. In February, Cunningham found him guilty of second-degree unintentional murder.
Tina Fiscus, Rush's daughter, and David Gooden, Rush's brother, gave impact statements before sentencing. Gooden said his sister's life could have been so much more. "We had a brother-sister bond that needed more time to nurture," he said.
Hicks was convicted of killing Rush in August 2007 and dumping her body in the park. Skeletal remains were found there last spring by a group of students, and DNA testing determined they were those of the 56-year-old Rush.
Hicks was only the second murder defendant to represent himself in the metro area in the past decade, and the first in Anoka County. A court-appointed attorney advised him during the trial. When the trial ended in February, Cunningham praised Hicks' professionalism.
Prosecutors said Hicks killed Rush after she refused to have sex with him. Bloody footprints from his tennis shoes were left in the hall of Rush's Columbia Heights apartment. There were no witnesses and no hammer was recovered, but prosecutor Wade Kish said the amount of circumstantial evidence was overwhelming.
At Tuesday's hearing, Cunningham said prosecutors successfully argued that the disposal of the body called for an upward departure in Hicks' sentence from the 21 years called for by state guidelines.
In her statement, Fiscus said that nothing had been normal about her mother's case and that she was shocked to see Hicks' lack of emotion during the trial. "He sat there stone-faced, denying his involvement in this murder," she said.
Fiscus spoke of how her mother cherished babysitting her grandchildren. When Rush went missing, Fiscus said, her young son would "play cops" and take his flashlight around the house looking for "my friend Judy."
She described her mother as a strong woman who lived simply. Hicks called Rush his friend during the trial, so "why would he throw her away like a piece of trash?" Fiscus asked.
She ended by reading a letter from her 11-year-old daughter, who is afraid "the bad guy will get them."
Afterward, Fiscus said she was glad it is over.
"I need to be done with this."
David Chanen • 612-673-4465