Evergreen resident Kenneth James Elmgreen, 54, has received the maximum sentence of 48 years in prison for killing his elderly and disabled father in July 2012.
During Elmgreen's sentencing hearing for second-degree murder last Friday, District Judge Christopher Munch also gave the defendant a concurrent six-year sentence for a related charge of attempted arson.
Added to that is an 18-month sentence on a separate probation revocation for a fraud-by-check conviction in 2010, bringing his total time in the Department of Corrections to 49 1/2 years.
Elmgreen previously pleaded guilty to killing his 90-year-old father, Kenneth "Bud" Elmgreen, by smothering him with a pillow. Elmgreen had cared for his father for 12 years at the home where they both lived.
"This was a crime to a helpless 90-year-old man," said Munch.
At the beginning of the hearing, Bud Elmgreen’s nephew James Elmgreen spoke about his family’s integrity, making an unfavorable comparison with the defendant.
“Ken is the exception to the rule that the apple does not fall far from the tree,” James Elmgreen said. “He could tell 1,000 lies. … All he did was take money from his parents. … I ask that you give him all that you can give him, short of pulling a pillow over his face.”
The defendant’s financial status and dependence on his father came into question at the hearing, as well as the credibility of statements he had made about his employment history.
“He didn’t have an employment history for the past 25 years,” said Christine Elmgreen, Bud Elmgreen’s niece. “As you sentence him, keep in mind that you are sentencing a predator.”
Deputy District Attorney Douglas Cohen said the defendant’s claims that he had worked at various businesses were not true. The last time Elmgreen filed an income tax return with the IRS was in 1992, he stated.
“As the family indicated, the defendant has not worked in the past 20 years,” Cohen said.
Cohen also pointed to evidence that Elmgreen had written checks on his father’s account while caring for him.
“The significant fact is that the defendant stole money from his father for a period of a dozen years and then killed his father,” said Munch. “The fact of the matter is that he was living off his father.”
Defense attorney Karen Knickerbocker countered, “We dispute the fact that huge amounts of money were stolen from the father. There was a suicide attempt. There are some pretty significant mental health issues.”
Arson charges discussed
When Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Elmgreen home in July 2012, they saw that the defendant was cut, and found blood on the floor.
Investigators also found evidence that Elmgreen was planning to set the home on fire, which led to the attempted arson charge. However, during Friday’s hearing, prosecuting and defense attorneys considered the possibility that Elmgreen had changed his mind about torching the home.
“There is strong evidence that Mr. Elmgreen abandoned this plan,” said defense attorney Jeff Gillio. “He had thought about it and decided not to.”
“Was paper or cloth laid out to connect the fire?” Munch asked during the discussion about arson.
Lead investigator Kate Battan said she saw papers in the defendant’s room and an empty gasoline container. The strong odor of gasoline in the home gave her a headache, she said.
“It appears to me there is significant evidence of abandonment and renunciation,” Munch remarked.
Additional 18-month sentence
Elmgreen also received an 18-month sentence on a probation revocation for a fraud-by-check conviction in 2010. That sentence will not run concurrently with the others.
While not actively discussed at the sentencing hearing, Elmgreen pleaded guilty in April 2011 to a charge of fraud by check of $1,000 or more, according to court records. He received a three-year probation in April 12. In July 2012, Elmgreen failed to appear at a revocation-of-probation hearing.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Cohen said that Judge Tamara Russell previously had ordered a mental health examination for Elmgreen, and that findings did not indicate major mental health risks.
“This shows the defendant had choices,” Cohen said.
Knickerbocker countered: “Mr. Elmgreen led a life based on illusions. There hasn’t been a comprehensive mental health evaluation.”
Elmgreen also had addiction issues, she added. During the hearing, evidence was presented that the defendant had a history of marijuana and cocaine use.
Elmgreen declined the judge’s offer to make a statement before his sentencing.
“The defendant will probably die in prison,” said Munch after delivering the sentence.
If Elmgreen is paroled in the future, it would in all likelihood be because the state has determined he is no longer a threat and because the financial obligation to the state becomes too great, the judge remarked.
The defendant’s sentence will allow the Elmgreen family to begin the healing process, said Munch. The family can begin dealing with a “horrendous loss,” which is like having an arm cut off, he said.
“I wish Ken had given the family a chance to say one last goodbye,” said Christine Elmgreen.
Contact Sandy Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.