LANSING - Kate Rodeman sat among friends and family as the letter she wrote to the man who killed her husband was read to a courtroom full of people.
"When you killed my husband, you turned my life into pure chaos," said Justin Conklin, the Lansing firefighter who read the letter on her behalf. "His death did not only break my heart, it broke all of me and more. You stole our future, the life we could have had."
Grant Taylor, 24, sat about 20 feet from Conklin and looked down at the table in front of him as Conklin continued to read.
Minutes later, Taylor simply said "no, sir" when Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady III asked him if he wanted to say anything. And moments after that, Canady sentenced Taylor to 30 to 40 years in prison for killing Lansing firefighter Dennis Rodeman in September 2015, when Rodeman was among a handful of firefighters who were collecting donations for charity.
Taylor pleaded guilty but mentally ill last month to second-degree murder and other charges in a plea deal with prosecutors. He had been charged with murder and other charges and faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder at trial.
The deal set his minimum sentence at 30 years in prison, but didn't set a maximum. Prosecutors asked for maximum sentence to be set at 50 years in prison, but Canady went along with the probation department's guidelines.
During the hearing, Taylor's attorney, Stacia Buchanan, said mental illness is something her client and his family didn't choose.
"Mental illness is a disease," she told Canady.
Taylor’s mother, Karen Cook Taylor, declined to comment after the hearing.
"It's a hard day," Buchanan said after the hearing. She declined to comment further.
Kelly Flory, Rodeman's sister, read a statement from her father prior to Canady sentencing Taylor, as did firefighter union President Eric Weber.
Weber told Canady that Rodeman's killing was "reprehensible and preventable," and that firefighters are still hurting two years later.
"This was no accident, but a choice," Weber said.
Taylor also pleaded guilty to failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death and fleeing from police.
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Lansing State Journal