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Billy Thomas Eagleman
Billy Thomas Eagleman

Eagleman gets life with chance of parole in brutal Devils Lake murder

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

In a gruesome death, Paula Hartze was stabbed in her home at least 10 times with a knife from her kitchen, prosecutor Lonnie Olson said Tuesday at Billy Eagleman's sentencing.

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"She had defensive injuries on her arms trying to block what was coming at her," Olson said. "One of those defensive injuries was hard enough to break a bone in her forearm."

Eagleman, 27, was ordered to serve life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Before the sentence on the murder charge was handed down, the court heard from Hartze's brother, Jay Skabo, and Pam Smith, who taught with Hartze at the North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake. During the hearing, a woman sat perched in the jury box translating the proceedings into sign language for a crowded courtroom.

"This act has impacted our lives tremendously. My parents' health has been suffering since this," Skabo told the judge. "My mom still cries just about every day, triggered by just about the slightest things."

At a hearing in December when Eagleman pleaded guilty, he apologized for killing the 43-year-old English teacher who was found dead March 1, saying he was drunk at the time. But Skabo, 46, of Mandan, N.D., said he isn't satisfied with that explanation.

"There must have been some anger, jealousy or emotions that triggered him," Skabo said.

The older brother described Eagleman's actions after his sister's murder as "disgusting."

"Before he was arrested, this guy attended the memorial service at the school, and the night before that, he was at a dinner with our family acting like nothing had happened," he said.

Smith said Hartze's absence is felt at the school where she taught for 14 years.

"Not a day goes by when we don't think and speak of Paula to each other. We miss her creativity, her generosity and her unique sense of humor," she said.

Olson capped their testimony, saying Eagleman, of Devils Lake, must be held responsible for what he did.

"It wasn't a bottle or the spirits in the bottle. It was his own actions. Those actions mandate a sentence of life in prison," Olson said.

Eagleman's attorney Scott Thompson argued that his client should serve 20 years with the chance of parole. He said Eagleman needs to be rehabilitated, citing abandonment issues that flare up at the end of long-term relationships.

"That's what we had here. Ms. Hartze apparently had a relationship with Mr. Eagleman; she ended the relationship. Mr. Eagleman couldn't deal with it because of his personality trait," he said.

Judge Lee Christofferson of Ramsey County District Court noted that Eagleman has little criminal history but for a restraining order against him requested by the mother of Eagleman's child.

After delivering the sentence, the judge told Eagleman that with good behavior, he could be released in 25 years.

"You would still have lots of life left, and maybe you can do something constructive with it," Christofferson said.

With the hearing adjourned, Eagleman momentarily lowered his head, stood up and officers escorted him from the courtroom.

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