Pausing for a moment before handing down a life sentence without parole on Friday, Anoka County Judge Jenny Walker Jasper looked at Elizabeth Hawes and said she had "never seen a situation that approaches this one" in her 23 years as a judge and lawyer.
Last week, Hawes, 45, was convicted for her role in the death of her brother Edwin Hawes, 46, who authorities say was beaten, shot with a crossbow and run over with a car at his Andover home in October 2008. Elizabeth Hawes drove a pickup truck carrying Edwin's body to a family farm 200 miles away, where her younger brother, Andrew, allegedly burned it in a fire pit.
The judge referred to Hawes' testimony in which she described the scenario as "being in a Coen brothers movie." The judge said that those movies are often violent, and that Edwin's death had "real people involved in a violent, violent death and burning of remains."
"I wish it was a movie," Walker Jasper said.
When asked if she had anything to say, Hawes said, "I loved my brother. I did not kill my brother Ed."
With one son dead and her daughter sentenced to prison for life, Dee Hawes, the siblings' mother, had tears in her eyes as she left the courtroom. Her third child, Andrew, 37, is scheduled to stand trial in the spring, followed by the trial of his fiancée, Kristina Dorniden, 30, who also has been charged in the case.
Prosecutors argued that a rupture had occurred among the three siblings by 2007, with Elizabeth and Andrew believing that Edwin had stolen money from a family business and bank accounts belonging to his mother and grandmother.
During her trial, Elizabeth said that she learned of Edwin's death only after Andrew told her and that she was stunned. The defense also described a warm and caring relationship between Elizabeth and Edwin dating to childhood.
But after 12 hours of deliberations, a jury concluded that she helped plan her brother's death and convicted her of aiding and abetting first-degree murder.
On Friday, Rhea Wise, Edwin Hawes' former fiancée and mother of their 7-year-old child, gave an impact statement. She said it was hard to refer to "Ed and Liz in the past," chastising Elizabeth for having earned the trust of the couple's daughter and then betraying it.
"My daughter couldn't cry after his death," Wise said. "There were no hugs. She hit, stomped, slammed doors."
Seven months after his death, Edwin's daughter couldn't recall his voice or the last time they hugged, Wise said.
"She did remember the music he played in the car the last time they were together," she said. "She was now able to cry."
The girl suffered through crazy dreams about angry alligators and would then crawl into her mother's bed for cuddles, Wise said. She asked her daughter if she wanted her to say anything on her behalf in court Friday.
"Tell them I have a miserable life now," she said.
A choked-up Wise said Edwin's killing tore apart a family already troubled in the first place.
"Help my daughter find the trust of family again," she asked the judge.
Outside the courtroom, Assistant County Attorney Paul Young, who prosecuted the case with Deidre Aanstad, patted Wise on the back and said, "Your daughter would be proud of you."
David Chanen • 612-673-4465