from death row to parole

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My beautiful sister Cindy, never far from my thoughts

 

First off, I want to thank everyone who followed along with the parole hearing/Cindy’s birthday yesterday and offered support–here, Facebook, privately. It sure meant a lot to not have to go through that by myself.

I’m going to document how things went yesterday as the hearing was quite different and I learned some new things. I will say that I was shaking from the moment I woke up. That doesn’t really make sense as I’ve spoken to this Board in person and they were very welcoming and non-threatening. I didn’t fear that he would actually be granted parole, so not sure why I was so anxious. I’m sure many of you out there reading, who have gone through loss and tragedy, understand that often the process is not linear or predictable. One minute you’re fine, then the next struck down again. Hopefully those down moments become less severe and less frequent over time–that has been the case with me– yet they can often be completely blindsiding.

For those unfamiliar with our case, a little background. There is a pretty well detailed comprehensive story focusing on the insurance angle of Cindy’s murder here: When Underwriters Become Undertakers. It was written back in the 90’s when all that part happened–when we sued the insurance companies I mean. It’s good for people to know this can happen, aided and abetted by greedy insurance brokers.

Both of the killers were convicted of First Degree Murder and Conspiracy to commit murder. The sentences were Death and Life WITHOUT parole in that order. Our amazing prosecutor Cathy Hughes was adamant about securing both convictions/sentences, warning us that things can change over time so you want to have every safeguard that they will never be released. I remember thinking that was extreme at the time, but it sure turned out to be frighteningly correct.

Michael and Rudi Apelt were tried and sentenced in 1990/91. Twelve years later, the Supreme Court ruled that people with mental incapacities could not be subjected to the death penalty–called the Atkins ruling. Of course, our family agrees with this, especially considering my father is a Psychologist who worked at length with that population.

There is a lot of legal support for death row inmates. Some lawyers make it their entire career–attempting to free them on every and any technicality. It can be a nice financially rewarding career for them as most death row inmates remain on the row, not receiving their sentences but appealing, for decades. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent fighting to get our “worst of the worst” reduced sentences or released from prison. It’s a pretty comfortable and lucrative gig for many attorneys. I’ve said before, the worst of the worst of our society receive the best of the best legal assistance–at our expense. I know this intimately. It was estimated that among other lengthy and costly expenses keeping these killers on death row, this one hearing I’m about to tell you about cost around 10 million TAXPAYER dollars. Let that sink in. TEN MILLION dollars that you and I spent, not at our discretion, trying to free two German sociopaths who never paid a dime in to American tax coffers, from their sentences.

Michael Apelt, Rudi Apelt and their accomplice Anke Dorn as they looked at the time of the murder.

 

A group began launching an appeal for the Apelts shortly after the Atkins ruling. I really didn’t take it seriously at first. I mean if you read the article above and/or know the facts of the case, you know that these men were very sophisticated con men– uneducated– but successful in manipulation. Beyond my sister, who they conned away her very life, they fooled luxury car dealers, custom home builders/realtors, boat sellers, Rolex watch dealers, insurance salesmen and countless women that they were anything from wealthy financiers to computer experts to professional athletes to pilots. All of this was presented in court with all of those people testifying.

This was in one season in Phoenix alone. Their histories show dozens of arrests in Germany for fraudulent schemes, rape, prostitution, theft, burglary, arson. This was all before either of them turned 27. Their bravado in pulling off the scheme to murder Cindy for life insurance was well founded–they had been getting away with these kinds of crimes for years–in fact most of their lives. They stole and sold the rental car they used to drive to the Paris airport to even get to the US to begin their killing spree for money.

So, how that all could be computed in to “mental retardation” was unfathomable. And terrifying ultimately, as this seven year long process to go to trial wore on. It was being taken very seriously. Especially by the Judge who oversaw it and came out of retirement to complete it.

Silvia Arellano

 

Silvia Arellano was the Judge involved and the only finder of fact. There was no fair and impartial jury as in the original trials–just her. Over time, with her rulings alone, it became clear she was not just being fair to the murderers, she was holding bias toward them. So much so, that the AZ Attorney General’s office took it to the AZ Supreme Court to have her recused for bias. I don’t know if we will ever know where her bias toward these murderers originated, but my guess based on other hunches, was that she decided she was against the death penalty, so wanted to end her career by taking someone off death row. And she did just that. We did not prevail with the Supreme Court and she remained on this “mental retardation” case until the very end.

An example of her leanings toward them, was a ruling ordering our original prosecutor Cathy Hughes off the case, who came out of her own retirement to steer the ship for the State. You see, our original prosecutor who had also been fighting and prepping for this trial for SEVEN YEARS like those defending the brothers (yes, they were trying to deem them both “mentally retarded”), was moved to another division and just as the trial was beginning, literally weeks away. We ended up with a new prosecutor in the AG’s office who had to get up to speed on the last SEVEN YEARS in just over a month. Cathy was scared. This new lawyer also had a husband at home dying of cancer–she was distracted and frankly, it showed. On their side was a team of lawyers and their assistants and big money backing them–not to mention every anti-death penalty group around. On our side was a new prosecutor, my Dad and me and our advocates.

The inimitable Cathy Hughes, one of the best people I will ever know.

 

She decided that since Cathy Hughes had become friendly with our family and had vacationed at our beach house in the past, this was grounds for removal. Luckily, those higher up when her decision was appealed, did not agree with her and Cathy was allowed (pro-bono, mind you) back on the case. It was clear that Silvia Arellano was simply trying to sabotage any chance the State had for upholding these sentences. She paved the way every single way she could.

The clearest example of her bias, was her decision to disallow any and all information in the trial about the Apelts beyond their ages of 18. Meaning, she ruled that anything and everything related to their CRIMES or their adult behavior (the other criminal histories in Germany) was disallowed in making her decision for their sentencing for those crimes. She literally set the entire thing up where she could only consider anything related to their early lives that could be stretched or interpreted in to “mental retardation” to decide what their sentences would be. It was just one hit after another with her and to this day, she disgusts me after putting us through that. Putting my elderly father through all that who sat in court every day of that hearing, enduring her ass-kissing of these killers.

A picture of Cindy and I to clear the palette

 

You may wonder why the prospect of these men being released from death was so impactful. We really weren’t attached to, nor anticipating their execution. You can’t live like that as there is like a 1% likelihood that will ever happen. But since their other sentence option was life WITH parole (there was no life WITHOUT parole sentence in 1990-but there is now), and they were both sentenced while in their 20’s, then there was a real option they could go from death row to the streets in about five years if they were granted parole. It was horrifying.

There were so many assaults and intrusions to our family during and around that hearing–it made the original trials look like preschool.

Rudi Apelt

 

In the end, Arellano ruled that Rudi Apelt was indeed “mentally retarded” and would be released from death row. She ruled against Michael. I guess she fulfilled her life dream of releasing a person from death row and that was enough. Then we faced the next hurdle.

Rudi’s defense team didn’t find that win quite enough, and since they had the entire deck stacked on their side, they decided to take it the distance.

Remember, he has now two sentences that were running consecutively–life WITH parole in 25 years, that rolled over in to that same sentence again. In essence, secured in prison for 50 years. But no, that wouldn’t do, so they argued for Arrellano to convert those sentences to CONCURRENT–meaning he would be serving both at the same time. This also meant that he would be not only removed from death row and in to the General population, but he would be up for release in five short years from the time this decision was made. Right back to the streets to continue his life of conning, murdering and raping women (did I mention he had served five years in Germany for a violent gang rape? Yeah, that was disallowed for consideration in her “mental retardation” decision too).

I had had it with her. I knew she would rule in his favor like she had done all along. I knew it was going concurrent and that we would just have to hope the Parole Board would never let him out. I had no more fight in me against this heinous Judge.

The night before that re-sentencing hearing, I was at the American Idol concert (yes I did get to see Adam Lambert perform :D) at got a text from my victim’s rights attorney–the one I had to get during the mental retardation trial after my rights got terribly trampled on by their side sending someone to my home unannounced, but that’s another story (she changed the law so they can never do that again to another victim). Anyway, she asked if I was planning to attend. I said no. She wrote back “I think you need to be there”.

So, once again, I stayed up until 2am writing another impact statement which you can read here. I drove through the desert alone to Florence where the original trials were held, sat with my attorney alone on our side watching his filling up with lookie-loos interested in how to get their killers off death row. I saw Rudi in person for the first time in 18 years. By the way, neither of them attended the mental retardation trial. I guess their attorneys thought they might not look the part well enough and bias the Judge to who they really are vs. who they wanted to pretend they are.

As they looked when we met them in 1988.

 

His attorney started the process by turning around and addressing me personally, offering a weak “apology” for all they had put my family through, that it wasn’t personal, blah blah. I held my head straight, did not indicate accepting of it as I knew he was trying to soften me. He likely thought I wasn’t attending this final re-sentencing and I was the only person really there to make an impact for our side (aka Justice). I’m a Scorpio–those tactics actually backfire on me. It just gave me more strength to say what I had to.

mugshots from around the time of the mental retardation trial

I gave my impact statement about 8 feet away from Arellano and confronted her bias in it–telling her that I did not expect my words to fall on her deaf ears as her bias was fully out there. But hoping that my words would help someone down the road who reviews her decision on appeal, make a more fair and considered decision.

The most poignant moment of that for me was when I got to the part where I described how my Dad and I usually sat alone on the side of the State, while the side of the killers was packed with onlookers hoping for hints to argue leniency for their murderer clients. Then I looked up to that exact scene–my attorney sitting alone behind the prosecutor and rows of suits behind the murderer–the man who slit Cindy’s throat. I raised my hand and moved it left to right, Carol Merrill-style, and improvised “exactly what I’m seeing right here”. I hope I made at least one person question the presence of their own ass in that seat–on the side of evil.

 

 

Shortly after I spoke, Arrellano broke, then returned and delivered her decision.

Miraculously, she ruled that his sentences would remain consecutive. Our backup sentence stayed in place. It was the one and only win we enjoyed in this entire battle.

The Assistant AG took me in a side room after it was over and we all were shaking our heads in disbelief. No one expected this outcome.

This was an entirely new attorney on the case by that time (lots of turnover in the AG’s office at the time), but he was clearly on the same page we were, and had been appraised of the bias against us. He said to me “that was all you” about my statement.

That was at one time gratifying to know my words had potentially made an impact, but at the same time my own life sentence. I knew then and there, that I would have to keep speaking up. That there was no real “letting go” of this whole process without dire consequences.

Which leads me up to yesterday’s parole hearing.

I’ll write that in a separate post as this one has gone on too long as it is and is a lot to digest.

So stay tuned. I’ll have it completed today, I promise.

Thanks for being out there, caring and reading.

death penalty thoughts 1

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I decided a few months ago that I would no longer attend the Jodi Arias trial in person for personal reasons.  The retrial started this week and I am supporting the family from afar in my own private ways.  I’m also following things on twitter where I’m uncharacteristically tweeting (probably doing it all wrong as I’m not really familiar with the system) and sharing some things about the death penalty and murder trials and this “victim” position I’ve found myself in for 25 years.

The causes that are important to me have to do with trial reform and death penalty appeals reform.  Let me just preface this by saying that I am in no way attached to Cindy’s killer who remains on death row, Michael Apelt, being executed.  I know the odds are very slim that we will ever see it happen and it’s not important to me.  Or to the rest of my family.  So let’s get that out of the way.  What’s important though is he never be released from prison.  When her murderers were sentenced in 1990, the State of AZ had no LWOP (Life Without the possibility Of Parole) so the only sentence that made sense was Death.  They were young men, violent, dangerous predators and the death penalty was the only sentence which would maintain them in prison for the rest of their lives.  It was a no brainer.

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Rudi Apelt, the man who literally slit Cindy’s throat from ear to ear, was released from Death Row in 2009, 18 years after he was sentenced, on a “mental retardation” claim.  In fact, it was argued for both killers as soon as the Supreme Court ruled we can’t execute the mentally retarded.  Poof!  They became mentally retarded. Both of these sophisticated, well planned out, well strategized murderers and con men were argued to be mentally retarded (that link takes you to a very good article on this appeal).  The biased Judge, the only finder of fact, Silvia Arellano, ruled almost every single argument in their favor to the tune of seven years and 10 million dollars preparing and executing this ridiculous appellate mini trial.  My Dad and I had to testify as did some of our family friends.   It was clear to me Arellano held a bias and I learned at some point that she was planning to retire right after this decision.  One of her most egregious rulings was that nothing, as in NOTHING could be admitted in to evidence to argue retardation after the age of 18 for the murderers.  Meaning, read this carefully:  EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME COULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TOWARD THE DECISION FOR THE SENTENCE FOR THE CRIME. 

It has always been my belief that she intended to take out her tenure as a Judge with a big splash and let a Death Row inmate off the Row.  So she set it up that way.  And that she did. My Victim Impact Statement around this, that I read to a courtroom packed on the side of the killer and empty on the side of the State save my attorney, is posted at the end of this post.  Please read it.

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Judge Silvia Arellano who treated my family very very poorly while championing for two killers on Death Row–she released a violent killer from Death Row single handedly

The joke was kind of on all of them ultimately because those brothers had been afforded the luxury of being housed in cells on Death Row one on top of the other for many years I’m told.  When you are locked in a cell 23 hours a day that is about 7 feet wide and you are 6 foot  5 and 6 foot 7 and a non-native English speaker, I suspect having your brother within barking distance through a vent is a pretty fine luxury.  They lost that proximity with this win; Rudi was moved to another prison altogether and they will never see or speak to each other ever again.

Karma.

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Death penalty opponents are the loudest voices out there, speaking of barking, about all kinds of causes to champion these worst of the worst of our society they’ve deemed new “victims”.  They rant about many  things for these murderers, not the least of which this argument about how the death penalty is so expensive.  While at the same time, demanding decades of ridiculous, frivolous, lengthy and costly appeals to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars per killer.  Tens of millions actually.  PER KILLER.  Yes, I do agree it’s expensive and I know who’s making it so.  And I know who’s paying for it: you and me.

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Opponents also like to spout about how the death penalty is thwarted by angry family members hell bent on vengeance.  While they refuse to leave family members alone to grieve, sometimes showing up on their doorstep unannounced of, say, the sister of a murder victim asking her to assist in her sister’s murderer’s appeal.  Right within a couple of weeks of the anniversary of her sister’s murder.  At Christmas time.  Strategized thinking this might be a good time to ambush her as she might be more raw, more vulnerable–aka more manipulatable.  Unmitigated gall.

So yes, the death penalty needs reform.  Why do we as a culture think it’s ok to impose a sentence we know will never really be carried out?  How many people actually pay attention to what happens after a killer receives the death penalty?  I’m here to tell you, not many.  Not many at all, other than those championing for the killers. Most death row inmates have a better chance of being struck by lightning and killed within the confines of the prison than they ever do being executed.  At least in states like AZ and CA.  Yet these opponents love to use terminology like “the State wants to kill this person”.  They’re not stupid.  They know the chance of actual execution is almost nil.  Yet they love to perpetuate the drama like this while blaming families for being “angry” “vengeful” “unforgiving”.

Dragging out the process and it’s impact on families is one of my causes that I’m using this platform to speak about because I believe “without awareness there is no choice”.  I’m not some pious person spouting opinions and morality plays.  I’m living this every single day.

There is another big issue related to this which I will write more about down the road.  Stay tuned.

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Don’t get me wrong.  These concerns don’t dominate my life in the remotest way.  I have a brilliant, free and enviable life (if you look at my present that is).  Heck I’d envy it myself if I wasn’t living it.  But I’ve had to navigate a mine field to enjoy it.  I’ve learned those skills well but really, why put an innocent casualty of a sociopathic killer in a mine field to live out their life?  Intentionally.  And keep throwing bombs at them throughout their entire life in the name of “justice” or “saving a life”?  Shame on you.  And it happens to people more vulnerable than me:  parents of murdered children, elderly victims, people like my brother.

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I think know the system needs reform.  I do think there needs to be a higher level of punishment for the worst of the worst in our society, like Jodi Arias so we can at least find out if it can be a deterrent.  How can anyone ever research the deterrent effect of death penalty effectively when the consequence being fulfilled is so unlikely for the killer, so remote that it doesn’t even exist in the same lifetime.  With killers who normally, by nature, don’t consider consequences in the first place?

I have ideas that don’t involve execution that I’d be completely happy with.  One where those millions wasted on killers’ appeals could go to say, the homeless or the mentally ill.  What a concept right?  One where a quality of life for this evil person fits the crime, is in some way escalated and where they lose all possibility of ever being released.  EVER.  As it stands now, I sincerely believe a death row inmate has a higher possibility of prison release than a lifer doing time for a non violent crime.  Simply because they have more help. And really really good help.  At our expense whether we like it or not.

I don’t like it.

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Things can change.  That little bitch worm murderer advocate who showed up on my doorstep that December morning asking me to help Cindy’s killer get out of prison will never be able to do that again to anyone else because she did it to me.  My victims’ rights lawyer, because this happened to me, changed legislation and closed the loophole to disallow this kind of victim abuse to ever happen again in the State of AZ.  It was traumatic, unnecessary and abusive.

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We can make a difference.  And my first step is just speaking up about some of these things.  With some street cred.

And I think while people are embedded in thoughts of the death penalty regarding Jodi Arias, which by the way she deserves,  it’s a good time for me to be doing just that.

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I hope this kicks a pebble that starts some kind of avalanche.  And if anyone out there reading has a direction to point me, please send me the compass.  I’m all ears.

Dedicated to my sister Cindy Monkman. 

cindychicken9/16/1958 – 12/23/1988

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My Victim Impact Statement after the mental retardation ruling on Rudi Apelt:

Why have I chosen to take time out of my busy schedule once again to drive to Florence to give this impact statement? I ask myself the same question as I honestly don’t think anything I have to say will make much difference or cause much impact toward the decision on resentencing this defendant but the question always is “can I live with myself if certain decisions are made and know I’ve said nothing?

So, here I am with a few things to say.

I don’t intend to get in to the impact this crime itself has had on me personally or on my family. Partly because I don’t think it’s necessary at this stage and partly because I think it could potentially do more harm than good. I’ll let you fill in the blanks on how losing your only
sister/ your oldest daughter on the day before Christmas impacts on a family. To a vicious senseless murder for money.

I will tell you the impact of this particular hearing and decision over the last several years has had and has the potential to have on me and my family.

When the men who murdered my sister in this cold blooded plot were sentenced to death, we were told there were two options in the State of AZ — Life with the possibility of parole in 25 years and Death which meant they would never get out of prison. Of course, no matter how we might have felt politically about the death penalty, we knew these were young men and would still be as violent and dangerous in 25 years, perhaps more so and the Death Penalty was the only sentence that insured the public’s and our safety from them forever. We were
warned that in time, the tables would turn, the victim would be forgotten and the murderers would be seen as victims. Well that time has come, over 20 years after the loss of my sister. It’s still hard to fathom but it’s the absolute reality now.

I am here to remind the court who the true victim of this crime was, and still is. It was my sister Cindy who was my only sister, fourteen months older than me, whose life was taken for one motive: money. On the day before we were to fly home for Christmas on Christmas eve 1988. I was 29 years old and she was 30. We grew up together with each other to lean on as we lost our mother at a very young age. She was kind and truly an innocent and the defense in both trials could produce no evidence about her in a derogatory way — there simply was none. She was like a lamb to slaughter with the men who murdered her — Rudi and Michael Apelt.

The victim was not and still is not the man, Rudi Apelt, who is being resentenced today. The man who wielded the knife that slashed Cindy’s throat from ear to ear leaving her to be discovered by a young boy in the desert on Christmas Eve.. Rudi Apelt, who has served another prison sentence for a violent rape of another woman in Germany. Rudi Apelt
who conned many women throughout the Phoenix area during the months prior to the murder of my sister for money, use of their car, a living situation in their home, procurement of goods, all of these actions performed ALONE and not in the presence of his brother or any other familiar person to him. All of these facts are clearly documented in the trial transcripts. He is a violent man, a repeat offender and took the life of my sister for money. I do not believe he demonstrates any signs of mental retardation in the commission of this crime–quite
the contrary, in fact. Sophisticated, calculated and cold-blooded homicide are not adjectives I would ascribe to the mentally retarded.

I am here also to tell you the impact that just this one hearing lasting several years has had on my family. My 78-year-old father was required to testify and cancel a prepaid trip to China because the Court would not consider a 2-week postponement of the original hearing
for this which he was required to testify at. This postponement was the one and only thing my family ever asked of this Court in the many YEARS leading up to this hearing and it was not granted. This was perhaps my father’s only opportunity to go to China for the rest of his lfe.
Yet the defense in this case was granted delay after delay over a period of years causing me and my family to be inconvenienced, put plans on hold, prepare ourselves emotionally only to be told yet another delay for the defense for years upon years.

I opened my door one December day, 3 years go, ironically the same day I was planning to decorate my house for Christmas which you can imagine what a task that is for me year after year seeing my sister’s bloody body was discovered in the desert on Christmas Eve morning, only to find an advocate for Rudi Apelt misrepresenting herself to me and asking for my cooperation with this very issue–the mental retardation hearing. And this advocate bald-faced lied to me in my own home assuring me that this murderer, if reversed in sentence, would be
resentenced to life WITHOUT parole. Yes of course she knew this was impossible due to sentencing guidelines yet chose to manipulate me in this way. What did I or my family ever do to deserve this kind of treatment? Laws have been changed now to disallow the abuse of victims in this manner in the State of AZ because of this heinous situation I endured.

My father and I endured sitting in a courtroom often being the only representatives on the side of the State while onlookers filled the side of the defendant hoping obviously to glean some kind of clues for arguing their murderer clients were also mentally retarded to avoid the ultimate penalty.

I have personally learned that in addition to the tides of sympathy swinging away from the murder victim to the murderer over the years that the “worst of the worst” in our society, once on Death Row, receive the “best of the best” when it comes to legal assistance. I am
convinced that a death row inmate has a greater chance of being released from prison than a “lifer” serving a term for a nonviolent crime, simply because more people care about those on Death Row. The murderers also receive free websites which read like singles ads soliciting donations, penpals, wives and the like. When the “serial shooter” claimed to desire the death penalty in his sentencing hearing this year, I completely understood what was motivating him — and it most certainly wasn’t a possibility of execution.

My one consolation with this preposterous ruling/resentencing is that finally Rudi Apelt will receive what he deserves. Which is to be forgotten, finally. I have no doubt that those helping so fervently over the years will drop him like a hot potato once he no longer holds the prestige of Death Row status and he will fade in to the woodwork with all the other violent common criminals in the general population. Until of course we are asked to appear at parole hearings. Then we will be forced to remember him and his violence once again. When do we ever
get to let this go? Do we?

Finally, I did not come all the way down here with any delusions that my words would have any true impact whatsoever on the outcome of this hearing. Biases have been shown throughout and I hold no fantasies that my family’s feelings and wishes will fall in to consideration. Yet let it be known, we all have a certain degree of terror at the thought of
Rudi Apelt ever being released from prison due to a possible switch to concurrent sentences where he could have the possibility of actually being paroled. Yes that terrifies my family and me personally. This again is the man who took my sister in to the desert, and among other
violent acts, slit her throat. Then enjoyed a celebratory meal with his co-murderer/conspirators at a restaurant using her credit card right after commiting the murder. Call it what you want, but I call that nothing but a DANGER TO SOCIETY. His sentences, at the very least,
need to remain CONSECUTIVE to protect society from his violence. Call him mentally retarded, call him an imbecile, call him an idiot savant, whatever you wish. But call his behavior what it has been: VIOLENT and DANGEROUS.

The reason I did come though is in hopes that down the road, whatever decision is reached as a result of this resentencing hearing is REVIEWED by hopefully a non biased individual who has no political agenda at stake. Then that a sound decision will be made then that will prohibit this dangerous individual Rudi Apelt from ever being released from prison again. And to allow me and my family to finally move forward without ever having to worry about him again. And to hopefully get to begin to live a life where we get to focus on remembering my sister’s life and not her violent death.