Judge cites lack of remorse, gives newlywed bride more than 30 years for Glacier Park murder

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: March 28, 2014 - 7:17 AM
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Dec. 9, 2013: Jordan Graham, 22, leaves the Federal Courthouse in Missoula, Mont., after the first day of her murder trial.

Photo: Kurt Wilson, AP/Missoulian

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MISSOULA, Mont. — The defendant's tears notwithstanding, a federal judge cited a lack of remorse as he sentenced a Montana woman to more than three decades in prison for pushing her newlywed husband to his death in Glacier National Park.

Twenty-two-year-old Jordan Linn Graham took the stand Thursday during her sentencing hearing to offer a tearful apology to the family of Cody Johnson, 25, who died just eight days after their marriage last summer. But U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy appeared unmoved.

He indicated he had continuing doubts about the Kalispell woman's honesty and said he was "waiting for Ms. Graham to say she was sorry for killing Cody," KGVO-AM reported.

"There's only one person in this room that knows what happened, and I don't think she's been entirely truthful about what happened," Molloy said.

Graham was sentenced to 30 years and five months in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered to pay $16,910 in restitution.

She will be subject to five years of court supervision upon her release.

Prosecutors had recommended a prison term of 50 years to life. They said Graham lured Johnson to the top of a 300-foot cliff in Glacier park on July 7 and pushed him over, then lied repeatedly to investigators in an attempt to cover up the crime.

Outside the courthouse, Johnson's mother, Sherry Johnson, said she felt she could now go on with her life.

"I do feel that I can move forward with this, yes," she said.

Sherry Johnson's sister-in-law, Celeste Watson, said after the sentencing that the family still doesn't know the truth about what happened.

"But we have to accept what went on here today and move forward," Watson said, according to the Missoulian.

In December, as the case was being heard by a jury, Graham dropped her claims of innocence and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder just before closing arguments in the trial.

Prosecutors in return dropped a first-degree murder charge and a count of making a false statement.

Before sentencing, Graham addressed the judge and assembled friends and family members. She claimed to still love Johnson and apologized to Sherry Johnson for the pain she caused.

"It was a moment of complete shock and panic," Graham said of the events surrounding Johnson's death. "I have no other explanation."

Federal prosecutors painted a more sinister image of the defendant.

They said she drove away from the murder scene without checking to see if Johnson survived the fall. And the absence of any drugs or alcohol in the case meant the defendant "was thinking very clearly," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris Mclean said.

In the days leading up to her sentencing, her attorneys sought to withdraw Graham's guilty plea after prosecutors recommended up to life in prison.

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