Destined for life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder hours earlier, Adam "Lux" Sterling remained defiant Thursday.
"Regardless of today's conviction, I stand by my conviction," Sterling, 24, told Hennepin District Judge Daniel Mabley as family members of slain 22-year-old Leo Kohorst looked on. "I feel an injustice has been done to me, regardless of anyone's thoughts."
Mabley only wished Sterling good luck.
"I wish you had it in your heart to apologize to the family," Mabley said. "But I don't think that's going to happen today."
After a three-day trial and about six hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Sterling of first- and second-degree murder in the Oct. 17, 2010, slaying of Kohorst as he lay asleep on the couch at his home. A first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
Sterling, who is male but identifies as a woman, was one of Kohorst's tenants at the house in the 3000 block of 18th Avenue South and risked eviction for breaking house rules. Prosecutors say Sterling struck Kohorst 22 times with the claw end of a hammer. Sterling claimed to have discovered the body and, in shock, taken a shower before trying to call 911. A short time later, another tenant heard a commotion, found the body and called police. The clothes that witnesses said Sterling was wearing that day, a green miniskirt and black leggings, were never found. The hammer also never surfaced. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney William Richardson cited as key evidence a pair of high-heeled shoes that had Kohorst's blood on them.
Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly said he would appeal the verdict. During the trial, Donnelly said the case against his client was based on "weak, circumstantial evidence." With no weapon, no witnesses, no bloody clothing, no blood in the shower drains or a motive, there was no direct evidence linking Sterling to the crime, he said.
As she read a prepared statement to the court, Kohorst's mother, Barbara Kohorst, refrained from lashing out at Sterling. Instead, she focused on how her son, "a quiet, gentle spirit and a man of justice," was taken from them.
Kohorst, a University of Minnesota student, studied electrical engineering and led a project to build a hydro turbine in Nicaragua. The project will be named for Kohorst when it is completed.
"We will never know the positive impact he would have made," Barbara Kohorst said. " ... His talent, ethics and kindness of spirit characterized both the person Leo was and how he lived his life."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921