It was a deal that no one — not the family of Toni Bachman, not the prosecutor, not the judge — wanted. But, as Ramsey District Judge Salvador Rosas acknowledged, it ensured that Norman A. Bachman Jr. would pay a price for murdering and dismembering his wife more than 18 years ago in White Bear Township.
“You’re a terrible person. … You deserve more [time] than what I’m going to give you here today,” Rosas said before sentencing the Anoka man to more than 13 years behind bars.
It was a deal meant to provide some closure to a family that waited nearly two decades for answers, said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Andrew Johnson.
“There are some difficult realities that you have to face,” Johnson said, noting authorities had no body, no murder weapon and no witnesses to the killing beyond Bachman’s confession. “Sometimes you have to come to an agreement in the middle.”
Rosas told Bachman, 53, that he could shave more than three years — 40 months — off his sentence if he helps authorities find the body of his wife. He has helped authorities search several times since pleading guilty in October to first-degree manslaughter, but they’ve been unable to find her remains.
“We don’t know if he’s not remembering correctly,” Johnson said.
To Toni Bachman’s family, Friday’s sentencing helped, but felt incomplete. The sentence is too short, they said. Bachman’s words are too remorseless for there to be much satisfaction, said Tim Reineccius, Toni’s brother.
“You never get 100 percent closure in a situation like this,” he said. “It’s reassuring that he’s locked up, he can’t hurt anyone else. I would like to see him spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Jody Reineccius, Toni’s younger brother, emotionally told Rosas in court what Bachman took from her family when he killed Toni.
“She never got to live her dreams, achieve her goals,” he said.
Afterward, he left no doubt what kind of sentence he would have preferred: “He doesn’t deserve to be on this earth anymore,” he said.
After years of suspicion, Bachman was arrested last April and charged with murder in connection with Toni Bachman’s disappearance in April 1997. At the time, authorities wouldn’t say what prompted them to press charges after all these years, other than that the pieces of a cold case finally came together.
A combination of forensic evidence, uncharacteristic behavior by Toni Bachman, and information from Norman Bachman’s three sons from a previous marriage helped build the case against him, according to a criminal complaint.
In October, Bachman sat on the witness stand and confessed matter-of-factly: He and Toni Bachman scuffled and he squeezed her neck with two hands until she died. He dragged her into a “cold room” in the basement of their White Bear Township home and, days later, used a filet knife and hand saw to decapitate her and remove her arms and legs.
He later buried her body parts at “a location from my childhood,” he said.
He told the court that he removed her arms, legs and torso from black garbage bags when he buried them in the dark of night. But his wife’s head, he testified, remained in a bag.
“I didn’t want to look at her,” he said.
Toni Bachman, 38, had become romantically involved with a man from West Virginia in January 1997. They met online and communicated almost daily via e-mail. Norman Bachman was aware of the flirtation and her desire to end their 10-year marriage, which he said Friday was strained by four miscarriages and the death of a son who died shortly after birth.
Rosas asked Bachman if he had anything to say before being sentenced. Bachman, bearded and wearing glasses and a red jail coverall, said: “It’s been a hard time for me — hiding for so many years, carrying this around with me. This secret.”
Toni Bachman’s family scoffed at the notion that the years have been hard on her killer. “Through this, he has not shed a tear, no sign of remorse. He’s made it sound as if he was a victim,” Tim Reineccius said. “Toni was the victim.”
Asked if he could believe anything Bachman told investigators now, he said: “I don’t think he’s capable of telling the truth. He’s lied, lied for 18 and a half years. He probably believes the lies he’s told.”