Sudbeck receives life sentence for Estherville murder

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Metal detectors were set up at the courtroom entrance and Scott Sudbeck wore handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit as he took his seat at the defense table Monday afternoon in Estherville.

The Emmet County sentencing hearing was a chance for Judge Patrick Carr to administer Sudbeck's mandatory life sentence in open court. An Estherville jury convicted the 36-year-old of first-degree murder on Feb. 19. They were convinced Sudbeck went to the residence of 30-year-old Michaela Jordan of Estherville and intentionally shot her with a handgun on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

Victim impact statements are part of the sentencing process. Five members of Jordan's family took the stand to tell the court -- and Sudbeck -- how the loss of Michaela impacted their lives.

Jordan's two youngest daughters remained standing as they took out a piece of paper and told the court how much they loved their mother. They left the courtroom after reading their brief remarks. Jordan's oldest daughter and son told the court they struggle with their emotions and hated seeing their mom in an abusive relationship.

Jordan's mother Linda Wahlman of Estherville told the court she still has panic attacks. She'll check the locks on her front door time and time again just to feel safe at night. Many of her remarks were directed at Sudbeck.

"My world and safe life changed," she told him. "Everything changed."

Wahlman finds herself raising a second family because she's now looking after Jordan's children.

"It's not a normal household, though we're working at it," she testified.

Jordan had a smile and kind words for everyone -- "even you" -- Wahlman told Sudbeck. The hearing's final witness also said she lost both a daughter and a best friend on the night of the murder. Anger crept into her voice as the testimony continued. She called Sudbeck a spineless, heartless coward who waited until Jordan was running away before he shot her in the back.

"In a few days she would have had her own place and been completely rid of you," Wahlman told Sudbeck.

Jordan died in Wahlman's arms and her daughter's last words identified the killer, she told the court. She also said she hoped God would send her to hell in the afterlife, so she could be Sudbeck's personal tormentor for all of eternity.

Sudbeck was given the opportunity to address the court, but told the judge he had nothing to say. His attorney, Public Defender Doug Jones of Sioux City, notified the court that he will file an appeal on Sudbeck's behalf.

Emmet County Attorney Douglas Hansen and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Andrew Prosser presented the case to a jury and were on hand for the victim impact statements Monday.

"They have handled it, probably, better than I would have," Hansen said. "It does put a new perspective on prosecution when you see how it affects the victims of crime."

The county attorney also praised Prosser and agencies involved in the investigation.

"The teamwork on the part of law enforcement was incredible," Hansen said. "The gathering of information and evidence was top-notch by everybody on the Estherville Police Department as well as the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations."

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