Gordon D. Weaver was found guilty Thursday of two counts of second-degree unintentional murder that resulted from arson and third-degree assault in connection with the 1999 death of his wife, Jean Weaver, in their home in White Bear Lake.
The case was decided by Ramsey County District Judge Salvador Rosas instead of by a jury. Sentencing will be April 2.
Kathy Rysgaard, Jean Weaver's older sister, said the family tried not to have any expectations.
"It has been such a journey," she said after the verdict. "You can't expect to have expectations. It is over for me now. It really is. My sister, in her 40 years, had so much love, so much respect, so much everything. What has he had?"
A jury convicted Weaver of unintentional murder in 2005, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The state Court of Appeals granted him a new trial in 2007.
Prosecutors plan to ask Rosas to find that Weaver acted with "particular cruelty." Weaver can't be sentenced to more than 25 years and could be sentenced to less.
Jean Weaver's bloodied and burned body was found in the laundry room of their home Oct. 16, 1999. Weaver was charged with first- and second-degree murder and he fled while free on bail. More than four years later, he was found living under a false name in a small town on the Oregon coast.
Weaver testified in both trials that he pushed his wife and she fell, hitting her head on a concrete laundry tub. He believed she was dead and set the house on fire to destroy "everything in it."
Dr. Susan Roe, who performed the autopsy on Jean Weaver, 40, concluded she was alive during the fire and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The defense brought in experts who testified it was impossible to tell whether the fire or the head injury killed her.
Defense attorney Joe Friedberg argued that to find Weaver guilty of murder, the judge would have to find that either the arson or assault caused her death. Friedberg said that Weaver was guilty of arson and, possibly, second-degree manslaughter.
Rosas, however, said there only had to be a causal link between Jean Weaver's death and the underlying felonies.
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992