As Robert Siegfried repeatedly stabbed his ex-wife in their Champlin home on Labor Day, her thoughts raced between how to survive and why it was so quiet.

The night before, he had told Francine Siegfried that he was coming to pick up their three young children. As he attacked her, she realized that she couldn't hear the children's voices, and feared they had been harmed, she said Friday during Robert's sentencing in Hennepin County District Court.

Robert Siegfried, 37, had moved the kids out of the house before attacking his ex-wife, part of a plan that he intended to end by committing suicide. On his computer was an e-mail that said both he and Francine were dead. Police found him hanging in the bedroom.

Somehow, both Siegfrieds lived.

Shortly before he nearly killed his ex-wife, Robert had been in a state mental hospital. While his depressive state was unfortunate, it's outrageous that he felt no regard for the future of his children, Judge Kathryn Quaintance said before sentencing him to 14 years in prison.

"Since I can't tell them, I hope somebody will tell my children I love them and miss them very much," Siegfried said. "I hope they will be able to call me 'Dad' in the future."

A packed courtroom of supporters for Siegfried or his ex-wife watched as the two spoke before the judge.

Francine, 37, slowly walked up to the podium and paused before saying that she still hasn't realized the full impact of what happened on Sept. 1.

She was stabbed eight times, and eventually pretended to be dead. When Siegfried went to the bedroom, she managed to get out of the house and call police on her cellphone.

One stab punctured her lung, and another damaged a nerve in her finger. The avid runner, who was training for a marathon before the attack, said she now feels an intensely painful burn when she jogs.

Her 9-year-old daughter blames herself for not stopping Daddy from hurting Mom, she said. And her 3-year-old son tells strangers his father is in jail.

All but one of the 12 children who attended her home day care in Champlin remain with her.

"I was a positive person before this, but I don't know if I can forgive him," Francine said. "I'm thankful he's on meds for depression, but my psychologist told me [depression] doesn't cause homicidal actions."

She asked Quaintance to give Siegfried the highest end of the range of prison time agreed upon when he pleaded guilty in December. A 15-year sentence would give her children time to graduate from high school and decide what kind of relationship they want with their father, she said.

In his statement, Siegfried apologized to his ex-wife and said he'll understand if she never forgives him. He said that although there is no excuse for what he did, it happened because his world was crumbling around him after his divorce and he couldn't envision living without his family.

"I need to be punished," he said. "I pray for the future, and hope my wife and kids can recover."

Michael Colich, Siegfried's attorney, said his client told him early on that he wanted to plead guilty so Francine wouldn't have to testify. He stressed Siegfried's lack of a criminal record and said he takes full responsibility for what happened.

The judge received letters of support from Siegfried's family members, all expressing incredulity that he would act with such violent rage.

Siegfried's psychologist wrote that he is at low risk to reoffend, Colich said. "He just lost his will to live and capacity for judgment," the psychologist said. "I like Robert Siegfried. I've seen him cry uncontrollably over this."

Ultimately, the premeditated nature of the crime, the brutality of it, and the impact it had on his children call for a long sentence, Quaintance said.

"I'm impressed that you are taking responsibly, the family letters of support, and that you don't put blame on anybody else," she said. "But it doesn't excuse what you did."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465