BRAINERD, MN – Noah King was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday in the 2017 murder of UMD student William Grahek.
The defense asked for a lesser sentence. However, Judge Mark Munger cited prior Minnesota case law to support his decision.
“The person in front of me today, Mr. King, is not an evil person. But on this one day, he was a person who made a really bad decision,” said St. Luis County Judge, Mark Munger, paraphrasing St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin.
Court documents say King, and 2 others entered Grahek’s home, looking to steal cash and drugs. The plan went wrong, and Grahek was shot twice and died.
“He was not perfect, but he was perfectly wonderful,” said Will’s mother, Heidi in a victim impact statement.
During the trial, prosecutors said King armed himself with a wrench and changed his appearance prior to entering the home. Prosecutors said that was enough to implicate King, saying he “prepared for the worst.”
King was 18 at the time he aided and abetted in the 1st-degree murder. Because of that, defense attorney Steve Bergeson said a life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.
“People are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives,” said Bergeson.
Charged under a felony murder statute that holds King equally liable for the killing as the person who pulled the trigger.
“There is nothing cruel or unusual about the stattutory punishment mandated in this case,” said Munger, after considering King’s age.
Jessica Fralich, the St. Louis County prosecutor presiding over the case, said, “It is an extreme sentence, but this was an extreme crime.”
Heidi said the future she envisioned “is gone.”
She said Grahek had been accepted into the Army full-time on the same day he was shot and killed.
“Children are not supposed to die before their parents,” Heidi said. “It’s impossible to think of Will without thinking of the way he died,” she said.
Heidi added it had been a tough year for the Grahek family in general, as her husband died of cancer just months after Will died. Jon Grahek was a sergeant at the St. Paul Police Department.
Heidi said she can never think of Will again without remembering the way he died.
Judge Munger said Will wasn’t perfect but he served his country and was helpful to family and friends.
“The impact of William’s death on the family, friends, the UMD community, the city of Duluth, cannot be understated,” he said.
Judge Munger said “the future will show us what kind of man King can become. It won’t show us what kind of man Grahek could have become.”
In their final statements, the defense said they feel nothing but sadness for both the King and Grahek family, saying Grahek’s death was the result of “youthful, rash stupid choices.”
“This is a tragedy,” said Bergeson.
King hardly spoke at the sentencing. He only replied “nope” when Munger asked if he had any questions.
King will have the possibility of getting out on parole after 30 years behind bars.
“The future will show us what kind of man you [King] can be. The future will not show us what kind of man William Grahek could have been,” said Munger
King is one of five defendants charged in the murder.
Deandre Davenport is currently on trial in Brainerd.