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  • Dede's parents testify at special post-conviction hearing

    Published On: Dec 18 2014 09:56:50 AM MST
    Updated On: Dec 18 2014 11:09:12 PM MST
    MISSOULA, Mont. -

    The parents of a German exchange student who was shot and killed by a Missoula man testified in court Thursday.

    Their testimony will be considered when Missoula County District Court Judge Ed McLean decides on a sentence for 30-year-old Markus Kaarma. A jury convicted Kaarma of deliberate homicide for the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede.

    Dede went into Kaarma's garage early one morning in April, reportedly looking for something to drink. Kaarma and his partner Janelle Pflager were inside the home and saw Dede on a video monitor they had set up in the garage. Kaarma went outside the home and fired four shots into the dark garage. Two of those shots hit Dede, striking him in the arm and head.

    Before Dede's family returns to Germany, his parents provided testimony to the court. Dede's parents sat in the courtroom for 11 days. They listened to witnesses tell the jury about how their son was shot and killed.

    This time they sat in the front of the courtroom, faced the man who killed their son, and told everyone how that murder transformed their family.

    Dede's father, Celal, took the stand first. Through an interpreter he thanked people of Missoula for their support. He told the court his son loved Missoula. He said coming to America was a dream for his son and that he wanted to learn English.

    Celal went on to say that his son didn't deserve death. He said their family in Germany and in Turkey are heartbroken.

    He said their only hope is that Kaarma thinks about what he did to Diren for a long time.

    "The last three weeks during our court, even though what happened, we expect from (Kaarma's) mother to show us or say us she is sorry about the death, but it didn't happen," said Celal.

    Diren's father says his family and Kaarma's mother each lost a child, but added Kaarma's mother can still see her son. Before leaving the stand Celal said he wants Kaarma to never forget what he did.

    Click here to watch his full testimony.

    Dede's mother, Gulcin, also took the stand. Through an interpreter she told the court the family was so happy when Diren was born.

    "Diren was part of our life. I'm asking people how a human can survive and continue her life without part of her heart, and we are trying to do that," said Gulcin.

    Gulcin told the court the phone call about her son's death destroyed her family.

    "I wanted to kiss him and hug him and smell him, but I only could kiss his cold body," said Gulcin.

    Gulcin said her two older daughters are devastated because they always counted on Diren to protect them.

    Click here to watch her full testimony.

    After the parents testified, Kaarma addressed the court. He told the family he was sorry for their loss, and he never meant for anyone to die.

    "We were so scared.  No one was supposed to get hurt or killed.  I can't even imagine the pain you feel.  If I could go back in time and change it I would.  I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for the loss of Diren," said Kaarma.

    Click here to watch Kaarma's statement.

    Kaarma was then taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

    NBC Montana talked to both the prosecution and the defense about the verdict.

    Kaarma's attorney Paul Ryan said he's planning to appeal. He said he has a number of legal issues to argue in the appeal including Montana's Castle Doctrine.

    Ryan also will cite the decision the judge made twice to keep the trial in Missoula.

    "We believe, from the polling that we did prior to the trial, that most people in this community felt he was guilty, before we even walked into the courtroom. And how that can be deemed a fair and impartial setting, if not anything else. I don't know how anybody can look us in the eye and say they hadn't made decisions. I understand that everybody did, you know, it's human nature. But that's not how the setting for a trial is supposed to be. It's supposed to be neutral. We just never thought it was."

    Ryan said he cannot file an appeal until Kaarma is sentenced in February.

    Kaarma's defense hinged on the castle doctrine and his claim that he was afraid for his life and his family's safety. Prosecutors explained the trial was never about that.

    "The case wasn't an attack on the castle doctrine or self-defense laws in Montana. The manner that this was done, the facts of this case are really what differentiate that. Those laws still exist, and people still have a right to protect themselves and their family, but they need to abide by the law when they are doing it," said Clark.

    Kaarma's sentencing hearing is set for February 12. The possible penalty ranges from 10 years to life in prison.

    Kaarma is being held in the Missoula County Detention Center until then.

  • Professional baseball team coming to Whitefish

    Published On: Dec 18 2014 05:32:42 PM MST
    Updated On: Dec 18 2014 08:32:42 PM MST
    KALISPELL, Mont. -

    The City of Whitefish is getting a professional baseball team. The team will be called the Glacier Grizzlies and will be part of the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL).

    The team will play at Memorial Park in Whitefish.

    In a few months league owners hope seats will be filled with fans and the field will be ready for a pro ball game.

    Even though the other teams in the league are in Washington and Oregon, the owner of the league thinks Whitefish is a perfect fit.

    “I was trying to keep the transportation costs down. But I saw Whitefish and I saw that Whitefish has a nice park, it’s a good baseball community, and it’s the right size. All the teams basically have a city size of around 30,000. It’s big enough to support a team,” said league owner Mike Greene.

    The Grizzlies will share Memorial Park with the Glacier Twins American Legion team. Members of the Glacier Twins say they are thrilled to share the field with the pros.

    “We will run clinics together and they’ll get out and meet the youngsters, sign autographs and things like that,” said Grizzlies General Manager Bob Lockman.

    Whitefish residents say they are excited to attend games and think it will bring in a lot more people to town.

    “We’ll have players in here that have their mornings and basically their afternoons free. So I would expect the golf courses, the bowling alleys get a lot of business,” Lockman said.

    “There’s a lot of stuff for players to do. I don’t know what hotel we’re going to use yet, but there’s options. There’s a lot of restaurants and it would be a good place for people to visit,” Greene said.

    So far 17 of 24 players have been signed. Most of them either played four years in college or were once a part of another pro league.

    “We got into this less than a week now, and it’s a lot of work. I know a lot of funds have to be raised, but I think we can make a go of it,” Lockman said.

    That leaves nearly five months for the work to get done before the snow clears.

    Season tickets are already on sale on the MRPBL website.

  • Bitterroot residents have mixed opinions on Kaarma verdict

    Published On: Dec 18 2014 07:16:21 PM MST
    Updated On: Dec 18 2014 09:56:40 PM MST
    HAMILTON, Mont. -

    In Montana, with its high gun ownership, and expanded state law that allows people to use deadly force to protect their homes and themselves, the Markus Kaarma verdict is generating a good deal of debate.

    Hamilton pet store owner and self-described "news junkie" Karen Pelkey followed the Kaarma case from the beginning. She thinks justice was served.

    "You have a right to defend your property," said Pelkey, "but you don't have a right to kill a 17-year-old for walking into your garage."

    Michael Sharkey, of Stevensville, said he thinks Kaarma is guilty of baiting Diren Dede for past problems he had with kids.

    "I own a gun to protect my family," said Sharkey. "But I don't believe this is what this gentleman was doing."

    But a group of friends eating breakfast at a Hamilton restaurant have problems with the verdict.

    "That's a pretty strong sentence for defending your home," said Sheridan Barr, of Hamilton.

    Barr said he thinks Kaarma was "railroaded."

    The men said they believe Kaarma had a right to defend his property.

    They said Diren Dede was playing a dangerous game when he entered Kaarma's garage last April. Dede was reportedly involved in an activity called "garage hopping," a trend where young people enter open garages to steal alcohol.

    "It's dark," said Elwood Grove of Hamilton, "the kid didn't knock on the door, he came in the garage."

    "He knew he was doing something he shouldn't," said Merlin Hochstetler, of Corvallis. "At 17 he was old enough to know better."

    Hochstetler said he thinks adults also have a responsibility to check on their kids.

    NBC Montana talked to other people who told us it would scare them if they heard someone in their garage, who was uninvited. They said they aren't sure how they would react.

    But Barbara Roe is relieved the guilty verdict came down. She said kids do "stupid things" like garage hopping. They make mistakes, she said. But Dede was "never a threat."

    "He wasn't in the house," she said. "He was in the garage, he was baited. That was obvious."

    Roe said Dede makes her think of her own grandkids.

    The case has received national and international press.

    Dede was a foreign exchange student from Germany, who was studying at Big Sky High School.

  • Missoula fire breaks out in basement, no injuries reported

    Published On: Dec 18 2014 10:55:39 PM MST
    Missoula fire breaks out in basement, no injuries reported
    MISSOULA, Mont. -

    Firefighters rushed to the scene of a basement apartment fire in Missoula Thursday night.

    It happened at 125 South 4th Street East at around 7:25 p.m.

    Fire officials on the scene said that at least 10 people were playing cards in the basement when the fire broke out.

    Deputies arrived on scene and evacuated everyone.

    The fire was put out quickly and no injuries were reported.

    Deputies are still trying to figure out the cause of the fire.

  • Dede's host family creates bond with German family

    Published On: Dec 18 2014 10:51:17 PM MST
    Updated On: Dec 18 2014 11:17:47 PM MST
    MISSOULA, Mont. -

    Inside the Missoula County Courthouse, Big Sky High School students and supporters of the Dede family waited to greet them.

    Diren Dede's mother greeted them, hugging her son's friends, wiping away tears.

    His father and mother thanked them all, and outside, Dede's host family gave a present to the grieving family, a painted picture of Diren.

    The death of the 17-year-old hasn't been easy for community members, like Dede’s host family.

    After spending more than two weeks at the Missoula County Courthouse, sitting, waiting and testifying, Kate Walker and Randy Smith say they can breathe a sigh of relief. 

    “We finally have some closure on that, at this part of the story. It doesn't bring us back Diren, and that's still very hard. It doesn't alleviate any of the suffering that a lot of people have had, but we are glad that that part is over," said Walker.

    Dede came to live with them in August of last year. It was supposed to be a short visit, temporary housing before moving on to a permanent exchange family's home, but they bonded with Dede and asked him to stay.

    "He was just a special kid, as I put it. He had happy eyes, bright eyes and he was just very alive and we're really going to miss that," said Smith.

    Outside their home, ribbons and balloons in the color of Germany’s flag are on display, woven throughout the Grant Creek neighborhood.

    "He left us with many, many wonderful memories," said Walker.

    The tree in front of their home now serves as a tribute to Dede, strung with lights and Dede's favorite soft drink. 

    "The outpouring was just amazing from the community and even places outside of Montana," said Smith.  

    Both say it will keep them bonded with the Dedes forever.

    "We had a son together and they'll always be in our hearts, and Diren has done that for us," said Walker.

    Smith and Walker say it will take time to heal. They have hosted several exchange students in the past.  It's hard to think about hosting another.

    They'll stay in touch with Dede's family in Germany, and Walker and Smith will make another trip to court in February to hear the sentencing for Markus Kaarma.

  • Markus Kaarma apologizes to Diren's parents

  • Diren's mother speaks at post conviction hearing

  • Diren's father testifies about impact of son's death

  • Guilty verdict read in courtroom

  • Brooke's First Alert Video Forecast

    Several waves of moisture will impact the region today through Monday. The first will move into the area by mid-day. Valley rain and mountain snow will overspread the region. Lookout, Lolo, Lost Trail, and Marias passes will see a slushy 1 to 4 inches of snow. Today's high temperatures will be in the 30s.