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AUSTIN EDITION -- Appeals court upholds murder

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sentence

Woman expected to serve 20 years for role in motel killings

By Amy Olson

aolson@postbulletin.com

A 21-year-old Minneapolis woman will remain in prison for at least another 18 years after a state appeals court upheld her sentence.

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Jenea Larae-Nichol Weinand's 311⁄2; year prison sentence handed down last July by Mower District Court Judge Donald Rysavy for her role in the June 2000 double homicide at an Austin motel. The expectation is she will serve 20 years in prison under the state's "good time" rule.

Weinand pleaded guilty in May 2001 to two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting first-degree assault for her role in the shooting deaths of two construction workers -- Juan Vicente Ramirez, 41, and Raul Pedro Gutierrez, 26. Benjamin Moreno Hernandez, then 21, was seriously hurt.

Investigators say the shooting stemmed from a botched robbery. Weinand was accused of luring the victims to the motel.

Co-defendants Vernon Neal Powers, 28, and Scot Perry Christian, 31, were convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault last June.

Co-defendant David Kenneth Christian, 29, was convicted of two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Under a plea agreement, Weinand testified against the three men, the state dropped first-degree murder charges, and Weinand got a sentence of 311⁄2; years, with credit for the year she spent in jail awaiting trial.

Her public defenders, John Stuart and Michael Davis, said the sentence was unfair and asked the appeals court to reduce it. Weinand wrote that she found the sentence "astounding" in light of her indirect involvement in the shootings.

In a decision written by Judge Roger Klaphake, the appeals court affirmed the sentence, judging it fair because it followed the state's sentencing guidelines and the plea agreement and did "not unduly exaggerate her culpability."

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The court concluded Weinand did not challenge the validity of the negotiated plea agreement, noting that "even if she did, her plea appears to have been voluntarily and intelligently made."

The court also ruled the sentence was fair in light of those given to her co-defendants. Powers and Scot Christian are serving consecutive life sentences in prison. David Christian was sentenced to 41 years in prison for his role as the getaway driver.

The court also rejected Weinand's attempt to minimize her role, saying "unlike the other young women in the group, (the) appellant actively assisted in the crime by prostituting herself with one of the victims, informing her male co-defendants that the victim had a lot of money and gaining access to the motel room he was sharing with two other men."

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