MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- James Sarff faces a potential sentence of life in prison after a jury convicted him of kidnapping his estranged wife and taking her to Mexico.
Sarff, 51, of Eagle Bend, was found guilty Wednesday of kidnapping Connie Sarff from her apartment in Long Prairie, as well as interstate domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act.
He faces a maximum of life in prison for kidnapping and up to 20 years on the domestic-violence counts.
U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery will determine the sentence in about two months, after an assessment is done. Sarff is in the Sherburne County jail.
The jury deliberated briefly Monday, all day Tuesday and until 11 a.m. Wednesday.
"We want to thank everybody who helped us through this ordeal ... and hope that no one ever has to go through this again," Connie Sarff told reporters.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Burns Magill said the verdict sent a message to domestic abusers that the government will come after them "no matter where they go."
"I think Connie Sarff showed she was a really courageous woman who spoke of things others would prefer to leave secret," Magill said.
Even though the kidnapping case revolved around the issue of domestic abuse, those words never were uttered to the jury.
Sarff was convicted of abusing his wife so badly in the late 1970s that she had to have a kidney removed. He was convicted of domestic abuse, but his sentence was stayed and he returned to his farm where, prosecutors said, he continued to abuse his wife physically and mentally.
Magill tried to enter testimony about the alleged abuse several times, but the judge wouldn't allow it, saying the conviction was too old to be pertinent.
The reason there wasn't more recent evidence of abuse, Magill said, is that "Connie tried to get help for domestic abuse before, and the system failed her."
That also explains why she hesitated to seek help during the abduction, Magill said.
Jamie Kingston, one of the jurors, said the jury had no idea of James Sarff's violent background, "but we came together and there were absolutely no doubts he was guilty by the time we were done."
The case began with an assault at Connie Sarff's apartment, followed by a two- week manhunt that ended with James Sarff's capture in Douglas, Ariz., just across from a small Mexican town where his Jeep broke down.
During that time, some family members and friends believed Connie Sarff was dead, in part because James Sarff called his sister the day after the couple disappeared to say, "I killed her."
One person who believed she was dead was David John, who was seeing Connie Sarff romantically and who was at the apartment sleeping the night she was abducted. John killed himself after she disappeared, and a suicide note indicated he felt responsible for being unable to stop the kidnapping.
During the weeklong trial, Magill presented numerous witnesses, including two neighbors who heard a struggle in Connie Sarff's hall, and three doctors who testified she had a stroke, most likely caused by being choked almost to death.
Defense attorney Andrew Birrell relied mainly on the testimony of a cardiologist who said he didn't believe she was choked. Birrell also tried to show inconsistencies in her testimony and in the way the prosecution presented medical evidence.
Without ever saying Connie Sarff could have left her husband, Birrell often underscored opportunities when she might have: while crossing the border, for example, or when the two went out for dinner in Mexico.
Magill, meanwhile, elicited testimony emphasizing Connie Sarff's fear of her husband to try to explain why she didn't call for help -- without mentioning that he had beaten her.
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