Garrison gets 30 years
BRECKENRIDGE – Chuck Garrison made a brief statement during his sentencing Monday, one that seemed to fly in the face of the jury’s March 20 verdict of second-degree murder.
“I’m sorry, sorry we’re here,” he said. “But I did not murder my wife, by God.”
Nevertheless, District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle sentenced Garrison to 30 years, just shy of the maximum 32 years he could have received.
Garrison, who was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom immediately following Ruckriegle’s decision, appeared nonchalant. He nodded at a friend in the courtroom and said, “Guess we’ll do this again in two years,” suggesting he will appeal the sentence.
Sharon Garrison’s family members spent most of Monday morning making emotional appeals to the judge for a stern sentence. Afterward, they said they were happy with Ruckriegle’s decision. Their emotions were in stark contrast to those displayed at the end of the trial, when her family members appeared stunned and were silent and teary in the wake of the second-degree murder verdict. They had hoped for a first-degree murder verdict. But Monday, smiles accompanied the tears.
“I think the family’s relieved,” said Sharon’s sister, Carla Robbins.
“I feel very happy with the outcome,” said Lacie Dissler, Sharon’s youngest daughter. “It’s been such a hard, grueling road.”
“I feel such a sort of peace,” said Breckenridge resident Theresa Rust, who was Sharon’s best friend.
“I feel good about it,” said District Attorney Mike Goodbee. “To the extent 30 years approximates a life sentence, it’s justice in this case.”
The 59-year-old Garrison likely will die in prison, though he could be eligible for parole in 15 to 20 years, Goodbee said.
Garrison was found guilty last month of second-degree murder committed in the heat of passion for the Sept. 26, 2000 death of his wife. Her body was found buried in the yard of the couple’s home on Tiger Road near Breckenridge a month after her disappearance. The couple, married 10 years, had a reportedly rocky relationship that included death threats and repeated divorce filings. Copies of the divorce filings show money was at the root of many of their arguments.
Monday’s sentencing was highly emotional, with Sharon’s relatives – several of whom were not allowed to watch much of the trial – releasing emotions that had been pent up for 19 months since Sharon died.
“I wait for the day the letter comes to say, “Chuck Garrison passed away today,'” Sharon’s sister Carla Robbins said, turning to address Garrison at the defense table. “Then you will pay and burn in hell for all eternity.”
Sharon’s daughter Audra Albright said the fall of 2000 was planned as a celebration; she was preparing for her wedding.
“October was going to be a month of happiness and joy,” she said. “October turned into a month of horror.
“Chuck Garrison never expressed any feelings or remorse. He does not deserve this court’s mercy. My mother did not get his mercy.”
Lacie Dissler unleashed a series of statements directed at Garrison, all beginning with the words, “I hate you because …”
“Unfortunately, Chuck Garrison is responsible for teaching me the meaning of the word “hate,'” said Dissler, who sobbed uncontrollably during much of her statement. “These are all reasons I’m having a hard time moving on and it’s reflected in school, in social life, in everything I’ve done since my mother’s death.
“I was 22 when my mom was taken from me. I feel like I’m still a kid who needs a mom and I’ll never see her again.”
Sharon’s sister Donetta Guthrie also addressed Garrison.
“If I were to say a prayer for you, it would be that God give you a conscience so it would haunt you every day of your life as it does this family, so you would feel the responsibility that is solely yours,” she said
Two of Chuck Garrison’s friends, and his son, testified on his behalf.
“I think Sharon Garrison started that fight,” Troy Garrison said. “The crime my dad is guilty of is what he did afterward. It was unfair to her family and to this community.”
Ruckriegle spoke at length before delivering his decision, addressing most of his comments directly to Garrison.
He pointed to the autopsy results, saying the beating was severe, “which the court believes to be beyond the impassioned response.”
“The wounds Sharon Garrison suffered were not consistent with the type of struggle you testified to,” Ruckriegle said.
Garrison testified during his trial the two had struggled on the floor, and that a pick axe had rolled onto her neck, its tip piercing her skull as he attempted to get up.
“This is a sad, sad case involving flawed people,” Ruckriegle said. “It’s the kind of thing you wish you could go out on the street and into each school and tell people, “Don’t let this happen to you, because it can if we persist in putting our own egos into bitter battles with people who are supposed to love each other.'”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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