Kevin Reek denied killing a St. Paul woman as he was sentenced Monday to life in prison for ransacking her house and fatally beating her.
Reek, whom jurors convicted earlier this month of killing Myong Ki Gossel, turned to the victim’s family members and friends in court and blamed his conspirators — Richard Joles and Perrin Cooper Jr.
“I’m sorry for all the pain and suffering everyone is going through,” Reek said. “I know you couldn’t ask for a nicer person.”
Reek, 48, said he wished he had known about Gossel’s “trouble” with Joles and Cooper so he could have changed the outcome of her encounter with the men on Jan. 2, 2017. His attorney, John Sadowski, told the court that although Reek “respects” the court process, he maintained his innocence.
Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson was hard on Reek, saying few cases had “disturbed me as much as this one” in his 17 years as a judge and 17 years as an attorney.
Gossel, a 79-year-old widow who lived alone in the 2300 block of Nokomis Avenue, overpaid neighbors for performing menial tasks. When they refused to accept, the judge said, Gossel threw the money on the ground so they’d have to collect it, or shoved it into their pockets.
“You had to beat it out of her,” Stephenson said.
He urged Reek to spend every day reviewing graphic crime scene photos that weren’t shown in court.
“It’s inhuman,” the judge said.
“Say that louder,” the judge said.
“I agree, sir,” Reek said.
Reek is eligible for parole in 30 years.
Prosecutors had considered whether one of Reek’s prior convictions in Tennessee could be used to trigger Minnesota law and invoke life without parole. County attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said the elements of the Tennessee case did not match all of the requirements in Minnesota, and could not be used.
Reek, Joles and Cooper — all high on methamphetamine — drove from Indiana to Minnesota last year to bilk money from Gossel, according to evidence at trial. Joles and Cooper had scammed her out of $20,000 in December 2016.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Hatch argued that Joles and Cooper abandoned Reek because of his erratic behavior and went to Gossel’s home. When they returned for Reek, he forced them to take him back.
Reek’s DNA was found in Gossel’s home and on her sweatshirt.
Sadowski argued that the DNA evidence wasn’t reliable because another sample had been contaminated, and Sadowski argued that Joles and Cooper conspired to blame Reek.
Gossel’s brother-in-law, nephew and friend urged the judge to sentence Reek to life without parole.
“She was a kind lady,” said her nephew, Randy Gossel. “I can’t imagine how scared she was.”
Cooper pleaded guilty to simple robbery in exchange for his testimony. He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.