Michael Desalvo was sentenced Wednesday to spend the next 25 years in prison for causing the death of Angela Drake, whom he had met just hours before her death at a Fitchburg tavern.
But what happened to Drake, 25, whose half-naked body was found in a drainage ditch on a cold winter day in December 2005, remains something that only Desalvo knows, despite an explanation — detailed in court for the first time Wednesday — that Dane County Circuit Judge Robert De-Chambeau said he just couldn't believe.
DeChambeau also sentenced Desalvo, 26, to 10 years of extended supervision, which he said Desalvo could serve in his home state of Minnesota, with a caveat that he not return to Wisconsin.
Desalvo avoided a first-degree murder conviction in December by pleading no contest to first-degree reckless homicide. He will be back in court Friday to be sentenced for drug possession.
According to a state Department of Corrections pre-sentence report referenced by DeChambeau, Desalvo said that he woke up in his apartment the morning of Dec. 9, 2005, to find Drake, whom he had met hours earlier at the Dry Bean Saloon, already lifeless beside him. He said she wasn't breathing, so he panicked, smoked a few cigarettes and tried to calm down.
"You decided at this point that she was in fact dead and that there was no other explanation," DeChambeau said. Desalvo told a DOC agent that he then decided to hide her body, so he drove her to the drainage ditch along Storytown Road and left her there.
"The problem with that is that it was not your choice to decide" whether Drake was dead, DeChambeau said. "It seems to me that any normal person, their reaction would have been to dial 911."
DeChambeau also said the explanation did not square with an autopsy report that found that Drake had frozen to death in the drainage ditch.
Apologizes to family
The explanation also did not wash with Drake's mother and stepfather, Anne and Tim Olson of Oregon.
"Knowing what we know, I don't know that we can believe anything," Anne Olson said. "He's got a history of lying and whether the statement is true or not, I guess that would be our reaction. What we've thought all along is, can we believe him? Nobody knows."
Desalvo hung his head through most of the hearing, but spoke for a short time to apologize to Drake's family.
"All I can say is I'm sorry," said Desalvo, who has been treated for bipolar disorder. "I know that doesn't hold much water. I really am sorry. I'm a good person when I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, taking my medications and not running from my responsibilities."
Members of Drake's family and her best friend, Tonya Turchik, told DeChambeau what her loss has meant to them and those around them and what they believe should happen to Desalvo. Most had already written letters to DeChambeau — he received about 70 in all — telling him that the maximum of 15 years in prison that prosecutors agreed to seek under the plea agreement wasn't enough.
'I have no mercy'
Nobody from Desalvo's family was among the overflow crowd at the hearing, and DeChambeau received just one letter on his behalf, from his sister, Margaret Desalvo. In the letter, she called her brother "a beautiful man" and said he has "a heart of gold and compassion mixed with a mind of question and false realities."
"He grew up with four sisters that love him so dearly and a family that has tried to understand him," Margaret Desalvo wrote. "We have learned to live with his idiosyncrasies and how to decipher his realities. All that we hope is that this man that we love and need in our lives does not die through the sentence he is responsible for."
But Drake's family is still clearly mourning her loss.
"Angie is, was, and will always be my angel," said her father, Larry Drake. "I have no mercy or anything for the narcissistic sociopath that took her life. Fifteen years is not enough."
What hurt for Drake's sister, Jenny Drake, was learning that Desalvo described the way he carried Angela Drake that night as "like he would a bride on her wedding night."
"Angie will never have that opportunity because her life was taken away too early because of one sick, selfish person," she said.
For Anne Olson, the hardest thing was the two-week search for her missing daughter that went on while Desalvo sat in jail and said nothing, despite knowing that Drake was dead. She said she always taught her children not to use the word "hate."
"I wonder how Angie felt when Michael Desalvo put her into his vehicle with only her turtleneck and socks on, drove her around and finally put her in her place of death," Olson said. "She died alone that cold night. I hope she hated Michael Desalvo."