DECORAH — In sentencing Jacob Seelinger up to 50 years in prison, Judge Richard Stochl said Seelinger “never once” admitted to his participation in the 2018 beating death of David Hansen, nor showed any remorse toward his victim.
“Under the circumstances and the brutality of the offense, I find that striking,” Stochl told Seelinger Monday.
In addition to the prison term, Stochl ordered Seelinger pay a $150,000 civil penalty to Hansen’s estate.
Seelinger, 18, and Dalton Adam, 19, both of Decorah, were charged with first-degree murder in connection with David Hansen’s death last summer. A Winneshiek County jury found Seelinger guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder July 11. Adam’s trial is pending.
The men were accused of beating Hansen on July 12, 2018, at Hansen’s Decorah home. Hansen was knocked unconscious during the attack. He never regained consciousness and died from his injuries Aug. 31.
Seelinger on Monday apologized to Hansen’s family and said if he could change what had happened, he would.
“I’m sorry you lost your brother. I’m sorry you lost your son. I’m sorry you lost a loved one,” Seelinger said.
“As far as my family, I’d like to apologize all you had to go through this with me. I also want to thank you for the support you guys have shown me,” he said.
In addition, Seelinger said he was sorry to the community “for the trouble I caused” and thanked law enforcement “for the hospitality they’ve shown me.”
Hansen’s father Elmer Hansen, brother Allen Hansen and sons Anthony and Tommy Hansen all gave victim impact statements.
Elmer Hansen said Seelinger shouldn’t serve a minimum sentence, but the full 50 years for every day his son suffered and spent in a hospital not knowing what was going on.
“He was beaten so bad, there was no chance he would survive. He was basically brain dead. It was hard to deal with for family and friends,” Elmer said.
He said he should have had many years left to enjoy with his son.
“We are bitter and heartbroken over our loss,” Elmer said.
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Allen Hansen said he talked frequently with his brother, something he can no longer do. David Hansen was 46 and could have lived another 50 years, his brother said.
“You destroyed a family … he won’t be able to see his grandkids,” Allen said.
“It was a brutal crime. I could understand if he died from a car accident or cancer, but to beat a man to death with your bare hands, that’s not right. You did an adult crime, you should do adult time,” Allen said.
Tommy Hansen, Hansen’s youngest son, said no one taught him anything but his father.
“He was a hell of a father,” Tommy said.
He told Seelinger it must be nice to see his father in the front row of the courtroom. At the age of 17, Tommy said he’s living on his own.
“I have absolutely nothing. I’m as lost as they come. What am I supposed to do? Do you know how many times I’ve called his number? I have voicemails from him, pictures. That’s all I’ve got. I have questions about everything and I can’t call him. He was the one man I could always rely on,” Tommy said.
“I’m ready to tell you in person I forgive you,” Anthony Hansen told Seelinger.
“That only comes from the grace of God,” he said.
“I’m ready to be a friend. I can’t wait to come and visit you and help you grow into the young man you can become,” said Anthony, adding Seelinger would have to pay for the crime he’d committed.
Seelinger and Adam were at the Winneshiek County Fair with friends before the assault on Hansen, according to authorities. They’d both been drinking and had taken Xanax, and been involved in two altercations before they left.
During his trial, Seelinger testified he was agitated because he’d lost his wallet, hat and sunglasses. A friend later drove the two men and Calista Seelinger, Seelinger’s mother, to Hansen’s house. Calista wanted Hansen to calm her son down and help her get him to his father’s house, where he lived.
Calista was living with Hansen at the time of the assault and also had a no-contact order against him as the result of a domestic incident.
Seelinger said he talked to Hansen a few times about Hansen’s treatment of his mother and the last time was about a week before the assault.
Adam’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 28. Stochl has ordered the trial be moved to Chickasaw County.