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.
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.
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.
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.