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Sentencing in Stremcha Case

On Tuesday, the three men who pleaded guilty in the Shea Stremcha murder in Longfellow were sentenced at the Hennepin County courtroom. Williams received 38 years in prison, Shelby received 35 years, and Walker received 40. More background details on the case.

The City of Minneapolis released a report from the proceedings:

It was a long day for the family and friends of Shea Stremcha. They came back to the same Hennepin County District courtroom three times Tuesday to tell those gathered what a wonderful man Stremcha was and then listen to the sentences for the three men who killed him.

Semaj Williams, 23, went first Tuesday morning and was sentenced to 460 months in prison with credit for 615 days served. Robert Shelby, 29, was sentenced to 426 months in prison with credit for 616 days served and the last one sentenced by Hennepin County District Court Judge Marilyn Kaman was Xavier Walker, 25. He received the longest sentence of 480 months with credit for 457 days served.

“If you go with someone and break into a house and your buddy has a gun and somebody dies, you are just as responsible and you are going to do big time,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said after the sentencing. “These types of home invasion crimes don’t happen very often but the victim and community impact statements made it very clear how painful this murder is to family, friends and neighbors.”

Leanne Stremcha, Shea’s mother, gave an emotional victim impact statement in which she talked about how Shea’s birth four years after his sister died as a newborn, was a miracle that “affirmed our faith in God.” He was a successful athlete and student at Northfield High School, and a popular student at St. John’s College who graduated with art and business degrees. He was employed at Amerprise Financial.

“I cry every day,” Stremcha told the court. “He woke up to a noise, never expecting, none of us ever do, to find what he found in his home. They chose to murder Shea because they had a gun and they could.”

Shea’s brother, Jesse, also read his victim impact statement and assistant Hennepin County Attorney Therese Galatowitsch read a statement from one of Shea’s friends, who is stationed in Afghanistan. In addition, Judge Kaman received victim impact statements from 15 others and 35 community impact statements from residents of the area who described how the home invasion had shaken their sense of security and safety.

Because all three men pleaded guilty over the past year, Galatowitsch laid out for the judge and gallery what happened in the early morning of July 20, 2011. Williams was looking for a higher grade of marijuana and had heard of a dealer in the Lake Street area who drove a certain type of car, Galatowitsch said. Shelby agreed to drive them there from the North Side in his van. They found a car they thought matched the description and assumed the dealer lived in the house the car was in front of, she said.

Williams picked up a stone and smashed the window of the door and Walker reached in and unlocked the door, Galatowisch said. Stremcha and his fiancée were awakened by the noise. Stremcha grabbed a knife near his bed, went to investigate and ran into Shelby who was in the lead, using his cellphone as a flashlight. Stremcha cut Shelby with the knife and Walker shot Stremcha once, she said.

When it was his turn, Williams tried to explain what happened.

“I know what happened here is a tragedy and me saying ‘I’m sorry’ won’t bring closure and might make them madder,” Williams said. “I’m sorry for your loss. I’m no murderer. I didn’t kill nobody. I didn’t plan for nobody to die. I don’t know. It’s a tragedy. I really can’t say more about it.”

Judge Kaman in sentencing him told Williams that he did cause Stremka’s death.

“While you didn’t pull the trigger, under the law, you are responsible for Mr. Stremka’s death. It wasn’t an accident, your gun didn’t just go off.”

Neither Walker nor Shelby spoke before they were sentenced.

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