TOLEDO — Dustin Jefferson apologized through tears Thursday, turning and speaking directly to his late wife’s family.
“I want to say to you guys, I’m sorry,” he said.
Jefferson, 40, though, also denied involvement in Kerry O’Clair Jefferson’s murder. Instead, he placed the blame on his mother.
“If I had known my mom had this plan I would have stopped her,” he said.
Jurors Feb. 9 in Jasper County convicted Jefferson of aiding and abetting first-degree murder. Prosecutors Laura Roan and Brent Heeren argued Jefferson helped his mother, Ginger Jefferson, kill his wife.
Judge Mary Chicchelly on Thursday sentenced Dustin Jefferson to life in prison with no possibility of parole. His mother is already serving life in prison for committing first-degree murder.
O’Clair Jefferson died of stab wounds Sept. 25, 2013, in Tama.
“Nothing about this is easy. What do I say to the man who killed my sister?” Nicole Hitchcock told Jefferson during her victim-impact statement Thursday.
She added as her sister’s husband, Jefferson was supposed to “love and protect” O’Clair Jefferson.
“How could you have done this? Why?” Hitchcock added later. “Only you can answer that, but I don’t think I will ever understand.”
Hitchcock also read letters written by her young daughters, Maddy and Brooke, to their “Uncle Pies.” Both expressed sadness for their loss and ongoing love for Jefferson.
“I’m sooo sad. I really hope you tell the truth. What you did to aunt Kerry was wrong. She loved us and even you,” Brooke, 8, wrote.
The trial in Jasper County was the state’s third attempt to prosecute Jefferson. The first in Tama County stopped because of questions about Native American representation in the jury pool.
Jefferson is a member of the Meskwaki tribe based in Tama County.
The second trial ended with a jury hung 11-1 to convict. A unanimous verdict is required.
Marlene O’Clair, Kerry’s mother, on Thursday also provided a victim-impact statement and also addressed her comments directly to Jefferson.
“I really can’t believe and don’t want to believe that you took Kerry’s life, but all the evidence points to that fact that you helped murder her,” Marlene O’Clair said.
Prosecutors alleged Ginger Jefferson, Dustin Jefferson and O’Clair Jefferson got into an argument after a day of drinking. According to the state, O’Clair Jefferson had reported her husband’s whereabouts to the Meskwaki Nation Police Department.
Jefferson at the time had an outstanding arrest warrant for multiple counts of sex abuse involving a young girl.
Marlene O’Clair on Thursday reminded Jefferson she had loved him like a son and everyone in the family tried to give him a chance, including her daughter.
“You were right when you stated that Kerry had your effing back, even when you were bad, “ Marlene O’Clair said.
She offered no condolences on Jefferson’s life sentence, noting his relatives could visit him in prison.
“What about our friends and family? All we have is Kerry’s gravesite to visit,” Marlene O’Clair said.
She finished with a passage discovered online.
“’I hope you ache in regret as the truth hits you like a bullet, and you find yourself replying: She loved me more than anyone else in the world and I destroyed her,’” Marlene O’Clair read in court.
Though not obligated to speak, Jefferson did before being sentenced. He said he had told his wife a divorce was OK. But, he said, O’Clair Jefferson refused.
“She wouldn’t leave me. And I was glad for that. Because I love her. I always did and I always will,” he said.
Jefferson added another comment for his wife’s family.
“I just want you to know, deep down inside, I’m not the monster that you think I am.”