VIRGINIA -- Donald Blom was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday in the killing of Katie Poirier, after a chaotic sentencing hearing that led the judge to briefly empty the courtroom.
Judge Gary Pagliaccetti suspended the hearing for about 40 minutes after a particularly angry exchange between Poirier's mother, Pam Poirier, and Blom. The Poirier family was allowed to address the court during the hearing.
"Get a good look at me. I want my face in your dreams always," said Pam Poirier, turning a speaking podium to face directly toward Blom. She brushed aside defense attorney Rodney Brodin's repeated objections that her comments were improper:
"Give it a rest. It's my turn," she said. The courtroom erupted in applause, and Blom stood up and cursed her.
"You've got the wrong (expletive) guy, lady," Blom said. "You look all you want. I'm not your (expletive) man."
Deputies wrestled Blom back into his seat as Pagliaccetti cleared the room.
When the hearing resumed, Blom repeated his assertion that he is innocent and said his recanted confession was "a stupid thing to do."
"I'm not guilty," he said in a soft, gravelly voice. "If there was something I could do to prove it, I would."
To Poirier's family, he said:
"I have respect for you, and feel sorry for what you lost ... and I hope someday it will come out."
A life sentence was mandatory for Blom, a repeat sex offender.
After 25 days of testimony and about 10 hours of deliberations over two days, Blom was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder during the commission of a kidnapping.
"We still lost," Pam Poirier told reporters after Wednesday's verdict. "We don't get to bring her home."
"The jury found Donald Blom guilty. Now the system cannot fail another family again," Pam Poirier said.
The case captured the state's attention from the start, with a grainy black-and-white surveillance video that showed a man forcing the 19-year-old Poirier from a Moose Lake convenience store with his hands around her neck in May 1999.
Blom, 51, Richfield, confessed last year to abducting Poirier, strangling her and burning her body in a fire pit on his vacation property nearby. He later recanted, claiming he made a false confession because of the stress of solitary confinement and from medications he was taking.
Under state law, Blom gets an automatic appeal.
"I think the most appealable issue is the admissibility of the statement (confession)," Brodin said Wednesday, in a reference to his failed attempts to have the confession excluded.
The guilty verdict was unusual in Minnesota because Poirier's body was never found, despite extensive searches of roads, woods, lakes and fishing shacks in the area.
In the days after Poirier's disappearance, spurred by another highly played bit of home video showing a smiling, vivacious Poirier in her family's kitchen, hundreds of volunteers drove from around the state to Moose Lake, joining members of the National Guard and law enforcement searchers.
Numerous human bone fragments eventually were found in Blom's fire pit, along with a charred portion of a human tooth. DNA tests were inconclusive, but prosecution experts later testified that the tooth matched Poirier's dental records. A defense expert disputed that testimony.
Blom was a stranger to Poirier and might not have been caught except for tips from co-workers, who reported to police that Blom resembled the man in the video, drove a pickup similar to one being sought and returned to work acting strangely.
Blom has six prior felony convictions, five of them sex-related. His sentences were relatively short, because at the time of his crimes Minnesota's sexual assault laws were more lenient. (In his confession, he denied raping Poirier and was never charged with doing that.)
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