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Jennifer Hitchcock's life came to a sudden and undignified end, with a gunshot to the back of her head, about a year ago on a cold and lonely hillside in Middleton.

On Tuesday, with more than 15 family members who had made the 500-mile drive from Nebraska watching, Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust sentenced her former boyfriend, Maurice Mason, to another life prison term for her death and other charges.

Mason, 38, formerly of Mauston, was also sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and possessing a gun.

Mason's nephew, Bennie Frier, who was ordered to pull the trigger, was sentenced to 40 years in prison on consolidated charges from Dane and Juneau counties. The charges included first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree reckless injury.

The prison sentences closed the book on a crime spree that began with Mason's abduction of Hitchcock, 22.

Mason was already serving a life sentence without parole for the Nov. 2, 2004, murder of Baraboo cab driver John Romberg, 50, plus 50 years for kidnapping, robbing and maiming David Kline, 47, of Mauston, and leaving him to die in an abandoned barn.

Kline survived but lost his hands because they were so tightly bound with cord and tape.

In Madison, Frier bought a shotgun, which he and Mason used to rob Kline.

Mason shot Romberg with the same gun five days later after Romberg had given the three, who had become stranded, a ride back to Baraboo.

The next day, on Nov. 3, 2004, Frier shot Hitchcock to death under orders from Mason before the two turned themselves in to Middleton police.

"I felt that if I didn't kill Jenny, Maurice would have killed me," Frier, 25, of Baraboo explained to Foust in court Tuesday, breaking a silence that has endured nearly since his arrest. He also said he was sorry for what had happened.

Mason, who had made lengthy statements to police and gave an interview in December to the Wisconsin State Journal, declined to speak in court when given the chance.

One of Mason and Frier's victims, however, took the chance to speak Tuesday.

"All you have to do is look at what you are part of," Kline said to Frier, holding up the hooks that have replaced his hands. "Do you know how hard it is to make food for people, to eat, to sleep? You should suffer even half as much of that pain."

Hitchcock's grandmother, Doris Hall, said the family was glad that Mason will spend the rest of his life in prison. But they had hoped for the same for Frier.

"I guess that's the way it goes," Hall said. "We feel he was just as guilty as Mason because he had many opportunities to help Jennifer and he didn't."


Tuesday's developments: Maurice Mason, 38, and his nephew, Bennie Frier, 25, were sentenced to prison Tuesday for portions of a three-county crime spree in October and November 2004.

The crime spree: The pair snatched Mason's former girlfriend, Jennifer Hitchcock, 22, in Lincoln, Neb., and brought her to Wisconsin.

They robbed and kidnapped David Kline, 47, near Mauston and left him bound and gagged in an abandoned barn for a week.

Mason killed cab driver John Romberg, 50, in Baraboo on Nov. 2, 2004, and Frier shot Hitchcock to death on Mason's orders in Middleton the next day.

The sentences: Mason received a life sentence without parole Tuesday for Hitchcock's death, to match the one he received in Sauk County for Romberg's death. He was also sentenced to an additional 33 years on kidnapping and weapons charges. Mason is also serving 50 years in prison for crimes related to Kline's abduction and robbery.

Frier received a 40-year prison sentence Tuesday -- 30 years for first-degree reckless homicide for Hitchcock's death and 10 years for first-degree reckless injury for causing Kline's injuries. He also received concurrent sentences for sexually assaulting Hitchcock and kidnapping Kline.

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