BARABOO — A courtroom erupted in emotion Tuesday as a judge sentenced a defiant Baraboo man to two consecutive life prison terms without hope of parole for the murders of his twin infant children.
David R. Yates, 48, was convicted earlier in the day of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his 5-week-old children, Savannah and Tyler Yates. The babies were found battered to death in their father's condo on April 13, 2008.
Over 10 days of testimony Yates' attorney, John M. Brinckman, tried to pin the crime on the children's mother, Susan Winbun, who now lives in Reedsburg. Brinckman argued Winbun could have drugged Yates with his prescription of the anti-depressant Cymbalta, then killed the children herself sometime after midnight, likely with the help of a male accomplice.
Late Monday afternoon the case went to the jury, brought in from Portage County to ensure impartiality.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sauk County Circuit Court Judge James Evenson read the guilty verdicts.
During the sentencing hearing an hour later the twins' sister by adoption, Betsy Sullivan, made a victim impact statement.
"Tyler and Savannah were with us for five weeks and they were beautiful, beautiful angels," she said to Yates as he glared at her. "I'm glad you're getting what you deserve, because Tyler and Savannah did not deserve what you gave them."
Winbun pleaded for Yates to admit his crime and said she hopes to eventually forgive him, but not yet.
"Just because you're forgiven doesn't mean you shouldn't be punished," she said. "Judge Evenson, for what he's done to my family ... he deserves nothing less than life in prison."
Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett asked the judge to impose life prison terms for each child consecutively, with Yates' earliest opportunity to apply for supervised release in 80 years. She said the rage he demonstrated in killing the children was "terrifying."
"I believe the public has every reason to assume that this court will protect all others from David Yates," Barrett said.
Given his chance to speak Yates insisted he was innocent.
He pointed to problems with trial evidence, such as a Baraboo police detective destroying a smudged fingerprint while collecting DNA from Yates' cell phone. Though the judge ruled the detective acted properly, Yates said it was the sort of thing that would eventually have the guilty verdicts overturned.
"I did not murder my children," he said. "I think the jury made a decision based on what they were shown and what they saw and what they heard."
Judge Evenson strongly rejected Yates' assertion of innocence. He pointed to the pathologists' report that Tyler was killed as much as two hours before his sister.
"Two young, innocent, helpless individuals were essentially battered to death," he said. "It was in no way accidental.
"What occurred here over a period of time was two calculated motions that took the lives of these two children," Evenson said.
Winbun sobbed and hugged friends as Evenson ordered that Yates serve two terms of life in prison consecutively with no option to apply for early release.
Winbun had little comment as she gathered with friends outside the courthouse, other than she was satisfied.
Asked how she felt about more than two years prosecuting Yates and two weeks-plus in court every day, Barrett passed it off as just her job.
"Justice has been served," she said.