Aaron W. Allen hung his head and cried quietly in court Tuesday while family members and friends of murder victim Brandon J. Horst shared their memories of him with a judge.
Allen, convicted of murdering Horst, dabbed a tissue to his eyes as he listened to victim impact statements at his sentencing.
But Horst's family found it hard to trust his sincerity after learning about lies and deception in the 10 months since Allen, 26, fatally shot Horst, 25, in the right eye as he slept in his home on St. Paul's West Side shortly after midnight on Aug. 5.
Allen was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison for killing Horst.
"I know I will never find forgiveness in my heart for him," Horst's mother, Brenda Horst, said afterward. "He's told so many lies."
Allen pleaded guilty in March in Ramsey County District Court to second-degree intentional murder and agreed to the prison term. He testified then that he shot Horst because he believed lies told by Horst's wife, Heather L. Horst, that her husband abused her and caused her to miscarry three times.
Allen was a key witness in the May trial that resulted in convictions against Heather Horst for her role in the murder, but he was far from a sympathetic character.
For months he lied to authorities about his knowledge of the crime, blaming blackouts and mental health issues before finally coming clean in February when he realized that Heather Horst had lied to him.
Allen apologized to Horst's and his own family.
"I can't turn back time, but I will use my time in prison to make myself a better person," Allen said.
But Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann was tough on him, admonishing him for pulling the trigger.
Brandon Horst "went overseas to serve his country. He went overseas to serve you," Guthmann said. "It doesn't matter that you may have been manipulated … it was your act."
Guthmann said Allen's remorse came too late.
Allen's mother, Jacqueline Woelfel, said after the sentencing that she wanted to express her sympathies to Brandon Horst's family. Woelfel also said her son was manipulated, and that there's "more to him."
Allen testified at his plea hearing that he was physically, sexually and mentally abused as a child, and had witnessed his mother being abused as well.
He testified that he agreed to kill Brandon Horst when Heather Horst said on Aug. 4 that he caused her to miscarry, and that she wanted him dead.
Heather Horst, 25, promised to pay Allen $100,000 to commit the deed with money from her husband's $488,000 life insurance policy.
She was convicted last month of aiding and abetting first-degree murder, aiding and abetting second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. She was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Brandon Horst's friend, Cameron Church, said Tuesday that he'll always remember his friend's generosity. When Church's car broke down about four years ago, Brandon Horst loaned his truck to Church for a year, no costs or strings attached.
"His life was about helping others," Church said.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708