Death of confessed Long Prairie killer prompts mixed emotions

Associated Press

SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. -- The apparent suicide of Jonathan Carpenter, who confessed to his role in the killing of a Long Prairie family, prompted a mix of excitement, relief and happiness among close friends of the family.

"I was questioning how I felt about it after I heard of the death," said family friend Kjerstin Wall, 19, on Friday. "I was excited, but I didn't know why."

Officials said Carpenter, 21, apparently hanged himself late Thursday at the state prison in St. Cloud. He was sentenced to three life terms without parole for the April 28 killings of Holly Chromey, 49, and her children, Katie Zapzalka, 18, and Jerrod Zapzalka, 16.

Carpenter said he and Christopher Earl, 20, of Brooklyn Park, broke into their Long Prairie home at random. Earl is awaiting trial.


"He's given himself the punishment that we would've liked him to have," said Sue Bleess, a family friend who lives in Sauk Rapids. "I only wish that we could've been the ones doing it to him. I wish he knew we were doing it."

Bleess, Wall and Rachel Sobotka gathered in Sauk Rapids after hearing of Carpenter's death.

The three women are part of a closely knit group of friends pushing a petition drive to reinstate capital punishment in Minnesota for particularly brutal killers.

Their friends' deaths prompted the drive, even though Carpenter and Earl would've long since had their days in court. The friends believe capital punishment is the only way to make sure brutal killers never do it again.

Sobotka, 17, said she no longer worried that Carpenter would escape and kill others. Sobotka said she now only worries about Earl.

Bleess, 26, said she talked with Carpenter while he was in the Todd County Jail. She believed he was sorry for what he'd done but wouldn't have been sorry if he had never been caught.

Bleess got answers to some of her questions about the deaths but knows she'll never know everything. Carpenter's father arranged their talk, she said.

"Now he knows what it's like to lose his son," Bleess said. "Before this, he could still write to his son and go visit him. We had a grave site, pictures and memories. They were innocent, and he wasn't."

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