By KEVIN OPSAHL
As Leonid Milkin left a packed courtroom after hearing the jury’s decision to put Conner Schierman to death, he was heard saying, “Justice has been done.”
Schierman, a former Kirkland resident, met his fate in King County Superior Court Wednesday after being convicted of murdering Leonid’s wife, Olga Milkin, 28; her sons, Justin, 5 and Andrew, 3; and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, nearly four years ago. Milkin was serving with the National Guard in Iraq at the time of the slayings.
The announcement was met with silence and Schierman just shook his head as Judge Gregory Canova read the verdict.
“We're all so relieved that this day has finally come,” Milkin said at a press conference with his family and the Botvina family after the verdict was read. “I'm just glad the justice system worked ... Conner Schierman came in the middle of the night like a thief and stole my family from me. I miss my family greatly. I won't ever forget them.”
Previously, the jury found Schierman guilty of the crime on April 12 and it took them just a day to agree on the sentence. The penalty phase lasted two weeks. The deliberated for a day and a half and were unanimous; otherwise, they would have been required by law to sentence him to life in prison without parole. The decision came at 2 p.m. on May 5.
The last time King County heard a death-penalty case was in 2001, when Dayva Cross was sentenced to death for killing his wife and two of her daughters in Snoqualmie in 1999, according to the prosecutor’s office. Schierman will join eight men on death row.
On Monday, Schierman spoke to a packed court room during an emotional 25-minute statement: “I’ve been told by people I’m going to die, I’m going to hell, but I’m already there.”
Schierman said he was in an alcohol blackout at the time of the murders. He later admitted to burning down the home on the 9500 block of Slater Avenue because he didn’t think anyone would believe he didn’t murder four people. But prosecutors contend it was because he was trying to cover up the crime.
His court-appointed attorney, Jim Conroy, defended Schierman from the very beginning, tried to make a personal appeal to the jury during the penalty phase telling them “who he is, where he came from and how he got here.”
Schierman's sister and mother were among those in an attempt to prevent the jury from sentencing the 28-year-old man to death. His family declined to comment after the sentencing.
Conroy said they would try to appeal the verdict to the state Supreme Court within the next week. He said he took issue with the jury selection and the “inflammatory” statements made by the prosecution in court.
“Conner Schierman is a good person and he’s been convicted of a very horrible crime,” Conroy said. “It’s sad because this thing is so out of context I don’t that anybody will ever known what happened July 17 of 2006. It’s not Conner; it was never Conner.”
Since King County Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole had successfully tied Schierman to the killings through DNA evidence, his case during the penalty phase lasted only a little more than a day. He brought in one family member per victim to testify.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg spoke to reporters at the family press conference in the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
“The death penalty is the law of this state and it is reserved for the worst of the worst of crimes,” said Satterberg, who was not in office when the prosecutors brought the death penalty charge against Schierman. “This (prosecution) team was able to bring that case together for the jury and the jury made what we believe is the right call …These are wonderful people who come to America to live the dream and that dream was shattered.”
Satterberg also called Schierman’s acts, “the worst crimes in the history of this county.” He said the day of the sentence was not about Schierman, but rather to remember the lives he took from both families. Pictures of Olga, Lyubov, Andrew and Justin were flanked on the conference table where family members spoke.
Lyubov Botvina, the mother of Olga and her 24-year-old daughter of the same namesake said she started crying when the verdict was read –and she hasn’t cried in a long time. She said she was glad the justice system worked.
The family members said at the conference that the only thing missing from Schierman’s statement was his apology for murder.
“I understand our lives are not going to be the same ever again,” said Yelena Shidlovski, sister of Lyubov and Olga. “I will never have my two sisters back. And although our lives will go on I am absolutely certain they will be in our hearts forever.”