MINNEAPOLIS – An Isanti hockey team father convicted in a brutal murder case learned his sentence in court Friday morning: life in prison.
Late last month, Jerry Westrom was found guilty of the 1993 murder of Jeanie Childs in Minneapolis. The jury deliberated for only two hours before reaching a verdict.
At sentencing, the judge said the life sentence was consistent with the statute for first-degree murder at the time of the child’s death. Westrom will spend 30 years in prison before being pardoned.
Prior to conviction, Childs’ niece, Melissa Beaulieu, and Childs’ mother, Betty Eakman, issued victim impact statements. They told the court how difficult the past 29 years had been.
“I’ve been waiting so many years for this ending and it’s made my life go through so much hell and I really feel like I’ll never forget and love her the way I always do.” Eakman said.
“Effects like this can be very bad,” Beaulieu said. “They affect you throughout your life. Losing someone you love is a profound experience.”
Jeanie’s sister has also spoken out, saying her heart is broken for Westom’s wife and children. She said that this is a tragedy for all involved and there is no winner.
Westrom chose not to speak in court. The defense used her time to point out evidence that was not allowed at trial. Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher stands his ground.
“As we said at the beginning, and we’re saying now you’ve got the wrong person. We regret losing the life of Jeanie Childs. We hope Jerry Westrom exonerated from the Minnesota Supreme Court.” Meshbesher said.
Eakman said she won’t let what the defense says in court change how she feels about the verdict.
“He will try to fight as long as he can, but in my opinion the case is closed,” Eakman said.
According to court documents, connecting Westrom to the murder began with visiting a genealogy website, which linked his DNA to DNA collected in 1993 at the crime scene. Investigators needed more, so they tracked him to a hockey game in Wisconsin. They watched and waited for Westrom to throw the napkin in a cardboard tray to collect his DNA.
Investigators used that match to arrest Westrom and build their case. His DNA was found on a duvet, a bloody bath towel, a face towel, a T-shirt and in the sink. And then the bloody footprints.
During the trial, prosecutors played Westrom’s 2019 interview with police, where he denied knowing Childs and what happened inside the Minneapolis apartment. This was the only time jurors heard Westrom at trial.
Jury director Derek Fradenburgh talked about three things that had a lasting effect on jurors: Westrom’s interview with police in 2019, DNA and bloody footprints.
“He said he wasn’t there, his DNA proves he was there… his footprints put him there at the time of the murder,” Fradenburgh said.
The defense said it plans to file an appeal.