A St. Paul man who fatally shot his brother inside the family’s home earlier this year was sentenced to 15 years in prison despite pleas from his mother for leniency.
Justin M. Girling, 33, also penned a handwritten note to the court in a failed attempt to earn probation for himself instead of incarceration, promising that if he were a free man, he would operate a ministry to spread a message of “salvation, healing, freedom from bondage.”
“If I make myself available, God does the rest,” Girling wrote in a letter filed by his attorney. “Others are doing this, but it’s not enough. The need is so great in the churches and in society.”
Girling pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder with intent for killing his half-brother, Kurt Schmeck, about 1:40 p.m. on Jan. 31 in their mother’s Dayton’s Bluff home. Both men lived there.
Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro sentenced Girling on Thursday to prison, noting that although Schmeck, 47, had a history of verbal abuse against Girling and their mother, he had no history of physical violence.
Castro also said it worried him that at an Oct. 25 hearing, Girling said he wished he could bring his brother back because his death wasn’t worth incarceration.
“ ‘This crime has made a fool of me,’ ” Castro quoted Girling as saying.
“Mr. Girling, these are not words of remorse,” Castro said. “These are words of regret.”
Girling’s attorney, Jennifer Congdon, asked for probation, arguing that her client was a law-abiding citizen who endured years of torment and verbal abuse from Schmeck.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Hao Nguyen asked for about 22 years in prison.
“The people of Ramsey County can’t afford the defendant making another miscalculation,” Nguyen said.
The men’s mother, Janet Schmeck, attended the sentencing and said afterward that although Kurt Schmeck did not threaten Girling on the day of the shooting, he had threatened to kill Girling “many other times.”
“It was awful living under it,” Janet Schmeck said of her older son’s alleged behavior. “We didn’t know what to do. The judge does not know the whole truth.”
Girling, who gave a lengthy statement at his Oct. 25 hearing, spoke briefly Thursday before he was sentenced. He referenced previous incidents where he didn’t use deadly force against strangers who were yelling at or ridiculing him despite the fact that he was carrying a gun at the time. Girling had a permit to carry.
Nguyen had used the anecdotes to show that Girling knew better and should be held accountable for taking his brother’s life.
“I would avoid conflict in the future the same way I did in society,” Girling said in his final bid for probation.
According to court documents: Janet Schmeck was baking cookies when Kurt Schmeck emerged from his basement bedroom. He yelled that he didn’t like cookies.
He then went to the store, returned and complained about the service. Girling came downstairs to investigate the activity.
“This isn’t your house,” Girling said to his brother.
“What are you going to do about it, tough guy?” Kurt Schmeck replied.
The criminal complaint said Kurt Schmeck walked toward Girling, who shot him with a handgun from about 6 feet away. Congdon wrote that Kurt Schmeck “lunged.”
“He shot me,” Kurt Schmeck said after falling.
He tried to get up, and Girling shot him two more times, according to the complaint. The men’s mother told police the brothers hated each other.