By Andrew Wig
February 25, 2015
The sentencing came nearly a month after Shefa was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, stemming from the Dec. 1, 2013, stabbing of Tesema, 48, in the married couple’s Richfield home. The prosecution had sought a second-degree murder conviction, but Judge Elizabeth Cutter handed down a ruling for manslaughter instead, accepting the defense’s “heat of passion” argument, which was based on Shefa’s allegations that Tesema sexually abused her.
Before the judge read the sentence, friends and family of Tesema had the opportunity to make victim impact statements to the judge, as they described the victim’s life and the fallout from his death.
His younger sister, Zeytuna Elies, said she is still haunted by her brother’s violent death, the result of a stab wound to the heart from a kitchen knife.
Elias said she used to enjoy cooking, but “since he was murdered, I couldn’t handle a kitchen knife,” she said.
She described how Tesema helped his siblings get accustomed to life in America. They joined him in the country after he emigrated from Ethiopia in 1994.
“He changed everybody’s life,” Elies said in English, a departure from the trial, when she testified through an interpreter.
Also speaking in English, Ahmed Elphato remembers his older brother helping him get his drivers license so he could work when he first arrived in Minnesota. Already a father of two, Elphato now has more family to support at his Robbinsdale home, having taken custody of Shefa’s and Tesema’s two young children.
He remembers his brother as the man who laid the groundwork that his family would follow to the country.
“We lost an American citizen,” Elphato reminded the judge.
The sentencing hearing did not appear to bring comfort or closure for the family; neither Elphato nor Elias spoke of any healing. Elias, repeatedly pausing to sob during her impact statement, said her grief has only grown. Elphato summarized the family’s mindset for the judge.
“We’re terrified, your honor,” he said. “We’re scared.”
Headed to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, Shefa gets credit on her sentence for 447 days served in jail.
Contact Andrew Wig at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.