A US federal judge cited a lack of remorse as he sentenced a Montana woman to more than three decades in prison for pushing her newlywed husband to his death in Glacier National Park.
Jordan Graham, 22, took the stand during her sentencing hearing to offer a tearful apology to the family of Cody Johnson, 25, who died just eight days after their marriage last summer.
However, US District Judge Donald Molloy appeared totally unmoved.
He indicated he had continuing doubts about the woman’s honesty and said he was “waiting for Ms Graham to say she was sorry for killing Cody,” a local radio station reported.
“There’s only one person in this room that knows what happened and I don’t think she’s been entirely truthful about what happened,” Molloy said.
Graham was sentenced on Thursday to 30 years and five months in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered to pay US$16,910 in restitution.
She will be subject to five years of court supervision upon her release.
Prosecutors had recommended a prison term of 50 years to life.
They said Graham lured Johnson to the top of a 91m cliff in Glacier park on July 7 last year and pushed him over, then lied repeatedly to investigators in an attempt to cover up the crime.
Outside the courthouse, Johnson’s mother, Sherry Johnson, said she felt she could now go on with her life.
“I do feel that I can move forward with this, yes,” she said.
In December last year, as the case was being heard by a jury, Graham dropped her claims of innocence and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder just before closing arguments in the trial.
Prosecutors in return dropped a first-degree murder charge and a count of making a false statement.
Prior to her sentencing, Graham addressed the judge, assembled friends and family members. She claimed to still love Cody Johnson and apologized to Sherry Johnson for the pain she caused.
“It was a moment of complete shock and panic,” Graham said of the events surrounding Johnson’s death. “I have no other explanation.”
Before he accepted her plea in December last year, the judge asked Graham to tell him what happened.
Graham said she wanted to confront her husband about her marriage doubts, but did not know how he would take it. She said the couple climbed down a treacherous slope below a popular spot in the park called The Loop and spoke on a narrow ledge above a ravine.
She told Johnson she was unhappy, they argued, and at one point, she said, he grabbed her by the arm and she thought he was going to pull her.
She told the judge she got angry at Johnson, brushed his hand away, then pushed him, with one hand on his arm and one on his back.
“I wasn’t thinking about where we were. I just pushed,” Graham said.