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A sentencing Monday brought together two troubled families, one grieving the loss of a beautiful girl who wanted to become a crime scene investigator and the other a family who tried unsuccessfully for years to find help for a mentally troubled son.
Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen consoled both families as she sentenced crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg to what attorneys expect will be a life sentence for the brutal 2008 slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.
“This is a horrible situation,” said Eitzen, who described the case as one of the worst she’s seen in 18 years on the bench. “I can’t help but feel the pain on both sides. My heart breaks for all of you.”
Cole Strandberg is led back to the Spokane County Jail on Feb. 14.
Cole K. Strandberg has pleaded guilty to killing a Spokane woman with a crossbow in 2008.
Defense attorney Chris Bugbee has acknowledged in past hearings that Strandberg killed 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008. However, Bugbee argued unsuccessfully to have Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen find Strandberg, 25, not guilty by reason of insanity.
Questions about whether an accused killer had sex with his victim before or after she was dead has led to the suspect's lawyer being named a witness in the case.
A judge ruled Monday that defense attorney Chris Bugbee will continue to represent accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg (pictured in February).
Bugbee has a different recollection of what his client said during a mental health exam regarding when he had sex with the victim than the doctors, putting the defense lawyer in the unusual position of having to present Strandberg’s legal defense as well as present testimony as a sworn witness.
A Spokane County jury will now decide whether Cole K. Strandberg should face the prospect of life imprisonment or indefinite commitment to a mental institution after a judge concluded he was sane in 2008 when he shot a woman with a crossbow.
Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen was highly critical of the review of Strandberg’s case by mental health professionals at Eastern State Hospital, but found that the 24-year-old mentally ill man probably was not insane on Jan. 7, 2008, when authorities said he killed 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.
“I cannot find… that Mr. Strandberg was insane at the time of the act,” Eitzen said. “But the question should be submitted to the jury.”
Accused killer Cole K. Strandberg has done little during the two days he's spent in Judge Tari Etizen's courtroom.
But on Monday, he made sure his marital status was clear.
After his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, (left) asked a neuropsychologist about discussions of Strandberg's mystical world and plans by the defendant's fictitious wife for a trip to Europe, Strandberg blurted out, “I have a wife, asshole."
It was another bizarre moment in a court hearing set to determine if Strandberg can stand trial for January 2008 crossbow slaying of Jennifer Bergeron, or if he should be found not guilty to be reason of insanity.
“He says he was married in Las Vegas Washington, so there are no records in this world,” Dr. Craig Beaver testified on Monday. “He’ll just go to another time or his wife will come get him and take him to Europe. So (the criminal charge) just doesn’t matter.”
Strandberg has his wrists bolted to the courtroom table and his legs bolted to his chair.
On Tuesday, he wore a face mask at Bugbee's request. Strandberg had spit in the lawyer's face at the end of Monday's hearing.
Strandberg is pictured up top on Tuesday.
The aggravated murder trial of accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg will proceed in January following a hearing to allow his defense attorney to present a case that his client should be acquitted because he is insane.
Defense attorney Chris Bugbee asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen Tuesday for what amounts to a mini-trial on Jan. 5 to present evidence about his client’s mental state at the time of the killing. Strandberg has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Eitzen reluctantly agreed, but said the January trial date is “written in concrete.”
Strandberg, who was featured earlier this year in a Discovery Channel episode of “Behind Bars,” is charged with sexually assaulting and using a crossbow to kill 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.