CASPER, Wyo. — A judge sentenced a Riverton man to 75 years to life in prison Thursday for kidnapping a 95-year-old woman and holding her bound in the trunk of a car for hours.
When Judge Catherine Wilking announced the aggravated kidnapping sentence, the victim's family began to sniffle, holding back tears. One of the Casper police detectives packing the courtroom did the same.
Kyle M. Martin, who pleaded guilty in August to three felonies in the case, leaned forward, bowing his head, then his shoulders. His jaw dropped then closed twice, as if he were chewing the Natrona County district courtroom's air.
Wilking also sentenced Martin to 20 to 25 years imprisonment each on individual counts of aggravated assault and aggravated burglary. The three sentences will run at the same time.
The sentencing proceeding began with District Attorney Michael Blonigen calling Tony Stedillie, one of the Casper police detectives who worked the case. Stedillie testified he was trying to find Martin on March 20, the day of the crime, as part of an ongoing investigation into a series of vehicle thefts in which keys were taken from inside the owners' homes. Police were canvassing an area near Nancy English Park in search of Martin but were unable to find him.
When he pleaded guilty in August, Martin told the court how he evaded police. He said he and another man entered the 95-year-old woman's house and began to dig through it while she slept on a couch. When she woke, the other man struck her in the face with a gun and then duct-taped the woman's wrists and ankles, according to Martin. The two men then placed her in the trunk of her car.
When Stedillie spotted Martin at Casper's Eastridge Mall, Martin took off. The chase ended in the nearby town of Evansville. Martin was arrested, but six hours had elapsed before authorities found the woman in the trunk of her own car. She had a heart attack while trapped in the trunk.
On Thursday, Stedillie said police have tried to identify a second person but of the three names Martin has offered up, all three were excluded from the scene. Police relied on FBI cell phone data, eyewitnesses and DNA samples to determine none of the men were Martin's accomplice.
A tip offered up by a person who was jailed with Martin also was a bust. Stedillie said the unnamed inmate told investigators through his lawyer that Martin said a cartel gave him $10,000 to kidnap the woman in retaliation for a family member's drug deal gone bad. The detective said the jailhouse information was entirely baseless.
The victim's granddaughter, Abby Baker, then addressed Wilking. Baker, who spoke on behalf of her grandmother and the rest of her family, said her grandmother is now terrified to leave home and traumatized by nightmares.
"This was the act of monsters," Baker said before asking for Wilking to sentence Martin to the maximum possible sentence.
Blonigen then made his sentence request — the same sentence Wilking would eventually assign, and told the judge the crime was deliberate and premeditated.
"To say this is senseless hardly seems appropriate," Blonigen said. "It's way beyond that."
Court-appointed defense attorney Kerri Johnson then spoke, saying her client has been in and out of incarceration since he was 14 years old. She said he has been assaulted numerous times in the approximately nine months he has spent in Natrona County Detention Center since his arrest in this case.
Johnson said Martin, 21, is too young to be permanently cast from society. He should be given an opportunity for rehabilitation, she said.
"I believe that he's worthy of redemption," Johnson said.
Johnson said Martin was on a methamphetamine bender in the days leading up to the kidnapping. She said his actions didn't make sense, even to him.
She then asked for a sentence starting at 20 or 25 years, with an upper range at the court's discretion. Such sentences mean convicted people are eligible for parole sooner than they would be, and spend extended time on post-release supervision.
When Wilking gave Martin the opportunity to speak, he stood to face the victim's family and apologized.
"It wasn't right of me," he said, speaking softly.
Martin turned to the judge and said he had been in and out of facilities since he was a young teen. The greatest achievement in his life, he said, was graduation from a Washington boot camp facility. Martin said started using meth after moving to Wyoming.
"When I came here, meth grabbed a hold of me and it made me into someone I'm not," he said.
The judge then said Martin's actions were horrifying, and they injured the woman physically, emotionally and mentally.
"You violated her," Wilking said. "You robbed her of her spark."
After Wilking handed down the sentence, Martin was led from the courtroom. Blonigen spent the next 30 minutes meeting privately with the victim's family.
Johnson declined to comment as she left the courthouse.
In comments made in the entrance to the courthouse, Blonigen said the amount of time Martin ends up serving may be dependent on how sentencing laws change in the coming decades. He said the sentence was appropriate for the crime, which he described as tragic.
Blonigen then said the case indicates state lawmakers should not go easy on meth dealers, in reference to a criminal justice reform package being considered in the upcoming legislative session.
The prosecutor said he was not certain if Martin had an accomplice in the crime. He asked anyone with knowledge of the crime to contact Stedillie at the Casper Police Department.