Circuit Judge Charles E. Atwell's sentence of Byron Case, 23, ended a case that Atwell called a "very methodical, cold-blooded homicide."
The key witness against the Kansas City man testified at trial earlier this year that Case killed 18-year-old Anastasia WitbolsFeugen just to see what it felt like. Case testified that the witness was a lying ex-girlfriend.
WitbolsFeugen was shot in the face in Lincoln Cemetery on Oct. 22, 1997. For years the crime went unsolved.
At the time of the murder, Kelly Moffett of Lenexa, 14, was Case's girlfriend. Prosecutors charged Case after Moffett finally came forward to tell what happened.
Moffett testified at the trial that she, Case, WitbolsFeugen and WitbolsFeugen's boyfriend, Justin Bruton, 20, were in a car the night of the murder. Bruton was tired of WitbolsFeugen's demands for commitment and had hatched a plan with Case to kill her.
They went to the graveyard and Case, Bruton and WitbolsFeugen got out of the car, Moffett testified. Case then got a shotgun out of the trunk and killed WitbolsFeugen as Bruton yelled for him not to.
Within days, Bruton committed suicide.
Moffett broke up with Case about a year later, and she said keeping the secret of what happened drove her to drug addiction.
Case testified that the victim and Bruton argued and that WitbolsFeugen got out of the car at Truman Road and Interstate 435, near the cemetery where her body was found. She walked away, and the three others drove off.
At sentencing Friday, Case's mother, Evelyn Case of Kansas City, said her son was not guilty, had no motive to kill and was convicted on pure speculation.
Bob WitbolsFeugen, the victim's father, said the sentence would finally end years of anger, pain and frustration.
"This court brought truth to light," he said.
Before pronouncing sentence, Atwell said there was ample evidence for jurors to convict.
For one thing, he said, Case's version of what happened required too many unlikely events. The judge said it was improbable that the victim got out of a car, walked into a cemetery and met a stranger with a shotgun who shot her point-blank without any sign of a struggle.
"I find that a very difficult story to believe," Atwell said.