Victim’s family speaks out at manslaughter sentencing
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- As a photo of Phillip Altstadt with his two children was placed on a banister in a Douglas County courtroom Thursday afternoon, members of his family prepared to share their impact statements with Judge Ann Carrott.
Carrott presided over the sentencing hearing for Kody Klimek, 30, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter – fatally stabbing Altstadt, 28, in Alexandria in June 2013. After hearing the statements and before she handed down Klimek’s sentence, Carrott told Altstadt’s family, “No parent should have to sit here. It’s an indescribable loss you are suffering.”
She added she would sentence Klimek per sentencing guidelines and that her personal beliefs are not for her to discuss in the courtroom.
Speaking directly to Klimek, Carrott said, “I hope you have listened carefully to what was said today. Their forgiveness doesn’t come lightly and it may never come at all.”
Klimek was sentenced to 48 months, with credit for time already served (571 days or about 19 months). He’ll have to serve 32 of those months in prison with the other 16 on supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $9,186.89 to the family to pay for Altstadt’s funeral.
Klimek was ordered not to have contact of any kind – phone, mail, social media, email, etc. – with the four members of Altstadt’s family who provided their impact statements or anyone related to them.Thoughts on sentencing
In a phone conversation after the hearing, Madison Altstadt, the victim’s sister, said her family is feeling heartbroken.
“We’ll never have full closure,” she said. “We will always feel an emptiness. The sentence wasn’t appropriate.”
She said her family fear for their safety and the safety of others when Klimek gets out of prison, which will be in a short amount of time.
“He stabbed someone. He murdered my brother. It’s a scary situation and we are all heartbroken,” said Madison Altstadt. “He (Klimek) has shown no remorse the past five years. He hasn’t said he is sorry for all the pain he has caused us.”
Madison Altstadt said the family feels powerless and that there is nothing they can do about the justice system. She added that the family felt like pawns in a game and that they truly were the victims.
“We have to quietly suffer in all this,” she said. “We’re glad it’s all over and we never have to sit in the courtroom again.”
Holding a green, wooden toy truck, Jeanie Schalow said in court that Altstadt was her first born and only son. As tears streamed down her face, she said her son loved her and was her protector. He used to bring her lilacs, she said.
A day before Mother’s Day, when he was a young boy, Altstadt went to a neighbor’s garage sale and bought that wooden toy truck with his own money. Schalow didn’t know that he did that until the next day.
Schalow said he was so proud to give his mother that truck for Mother’s Day that he never played with it, but instead put it in the china hutch.
“He told me it was mommy’s truck,” she said through her tears. “He was so caring and had such an infectious smile. But I won’t see that smile or feel his hugs anymore. You have taken him from us.”
Schalow told Klimek he took so much from the family, including taking a brother from his sister, a dad from his two little girls, a son from his parents, an uncle from his nephew and so much more.
“You stole all that when you murdered him,” she said. “No punishment on earth will ever be enough. He was my little boy and you don’t even have any remorse. You are just pure evil.”
Schalow told Klimek it would be impossible to ever forgive him.A vital part of the family
Wanda Kupferschmid, an aunt of Altstadt’s, said he was the glue that held the family together. She said her family shouldn’t have to bury one of their own at such a young age and after such a horrific death.
“Madison lost her brother and best friend. They were always close and hardly ever fought. They confided in each other,” Kupferschmid said. “She lost a vital part of her life. She now has a void she will have to live with for the rest of her life.”
Kupferschmid told Klimek she hopes as he sits in prison that he evaluates his life and tries to make it better, although it wouldn’t bring her nephew back. She told him that if he continues down the same path, harm will most likely come to him and others.
“Please, don’t make the same mistake twice,” she told Klimek. “I hope you look for help and let Jesus Christ find you. Give your life to him.”A little girl and her big brother
Writing her impact statement was the most challenging thing she has ever written, Madison Altstadt told Judge Carrott.
“I want to say all the right things with some unrealistic hope that if I state it perfectly then maybe, just maybe justice will finally be served,” Madison said while sobbing. “The reality is, regardless of what I say, I will never have another day with my brother. Whatever I say doesn’t matter.”
She said the hardest, most challenging part of the living through the past five years, besides being without her brother, was “all the lies” she said were told by Klimek, who in February pleaded guilty to count one of manslaughter.
Madison Altstadt, who Carrott asked if she needed a minute, shared a story of a little girl and her big brother. She said her brother was “her person.” She looked up to him so much that at one point she wanted to be a boy just like him and refused to wear anything but his oversized hand-me-downs. She said her brother had the biggest heart and would give anyone the shirt off his back.
“Because of Kody’s actions, I will never be able to hear his laugh again, to talk to him about life or to share milestones in our kids’ lives. My son will never know his uncle. He will never be able to color, cuddle or be goofy with him. He will never know the person who has played such a large role in making his mom who she is today,” said Madison. “Nor will Phil’s daughters be able to grow up with their dad.”
She told the judge that she cries often for many reasons, including having to watch her parents struggle through the loss of a child and because she feels the justice system failed her family.
“I cry because nobody really understands the pain of having your only brother brutally murdered,” she said. “I cry because as my brother’s killer will be living it up on the streets, I am placing flowers on my brother’s grave.”
She asked the court to consider giving Klimek the maximum sentence because she feels Klimek has to understand that taking a life means something and that his actions have consequences.
“Please don’t allow him to cause any more pain to the people of this community,” she said.Breaking the Ten Commandments
Jim Altstadt, Phillip Altstadt’s father, didn’t read his impact statement, which was submitted to the court, but instead spoke from his heart.
“You took something from us,” he said to Klimek. “You caused a great deal of pain and I hope you remember this.”
He told Klimek he has tried for five years to find forgiveness and that he wants to forgive him, but he just can’t.
Speaking directly at Klimek, Jim Altstadt said, “I have listened to every call. Looked at every text message. I read every statement and if you think it’s the truth, you’re mistaken.”
And as his voice got a little louder and louder, he said, “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill, Kody!”
He told Klimek that he had broken all 10 Ten Commandments and that Klimek would be judged just like everyone else when he meets his maker.
His anger growing, Jim Altstadt told Klimek to look at his son’s family members who were in the courtroom and he told him that they don’t sleep because of the nightmares he has caused.
“When I sleep, I see Phillip laying in the grass in a pool of blood,” he told Klimek. “Kody, look at those people, they haven’t slept in five years.”
Before thanking Judge Carrott for her time and for listening, Jim Altstadt also called the plea bargain “an absolute joke.”County attorney speaks out
Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson said there is no doubt the family was suffering and there was a lot of pain and grief associated with this case.
“Personally, this was the single most difficult and challenging case in my career,” Larson said. “I basically had two choices and they were both unsavory. I remain steadfast that I picked the least bad option.”Klimek’s attorney reacts
Brockton Hunter, Klimek’s attorney, said this case was a tragedy for all involved and that he knows not everyone is going to agree on the facts, but that he wasn’t there to litigate the case.
He told Judge Carrott that Klimek didn’t have a criminal record prior to the stabbing death of Altstadt and that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
“He does feel a great deal of remorse,” Klimek’s lawyer said.
Before he was sentenced, Klimek spoke very briefly, stating, “I am sorry for the death of Phillip. I pray for forgiveness. I found God through my incarceration and I pray every day.”The day of the stabbing
According to the criminal complaint:
On Saturday, June 1, 2013, Alexandria police officers and emergency medical services responded to Lincoln Estates for a reported stabbing. When officers arrived, Altstadt was found lying in the grass with stab wounds to his arm and chest.
He died a short time later.
Prior to the stabbing, Klimek and Altstadt got into an argument in the parking lot, according to the complaint. Witnesses said that after Klimek shouted to Altstadt, Altstadt approached him, yelled back and pushed Klimek, who retaliated with a knife.
A witness said the push didn't appear to be "very hard," according to the complaint.
After stabbing Altstadt, Klimek walked toward the All-Stop gas station and hastened his pace once bystanders began screaming, according to the complaint. Klimek was apprehended by police at gunpoint on Seventh Avenue East within 40 minutes of the 911 call and had a bloody knife in his possession.
The arresting officer reported there was blood on Klimek's face, hands and clothing. Once in the squad car, Klimek reportedly told the officer, "He came at me, I was scared for my life."