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Stepping up to speak at the sentencing of her sister's husband and killer, Lara Simonian looked hard at Matthew Gretz before Hennepin County District Judge Robert Blaeser stopped her.

"This way, ma'am," he said.

Several of Kira Simonian's family members spoke at Gretz's sentencing Monday. Her father, Raffe Simonian, called him a "coward." Lara Simonian said she wanted Gretz to see her face and remember her sister and what he had done. Gretz didn't make eye contact with any of them, they later said.

"Kira deserves the truth," Lara Simonian told the judge at the end of her statement. But when Blaeser asked Gretz if he wanted to speak, he did not.

The judge sentenced him to slightly more than 25 years in prison. The 33-year-old could get out after about 18 years with good behavior.

What made the murder harder on the family was that for weeks after his wife's death June 28, Gretz cast himself as the grieving husband. Then he was charged, and this month he pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder.

According to the charges, Gretz chased Simonian around their south Minneapolis apartment screaming, "Do you love me?" He stabbed her about 15 times and then smashed her head with a hammer.

The murder shocked their friends and family. Simonian was a graduate student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, close to realizing her dream of teaching art. Her husband worked in marketing at Target Corp.

Shortly after the killing, Gretz flew to New York, allegedly for work. When police caught up with him, he had bruises and cuts on his hands, arms and body. Police found Simonian's blood on his suitcase and on a watch he wore the day she died.

At the sentencing, Lara Simonian read from a card her sister sent to Gretz on their first anniversary, writing that he made her feel beautiful and believe that she could do anything. On their second anniversary, June 6, 2006, she wrote that the date 6/6/6 may have evil connotations but their love did not. On their third anniversary three weeks before her death, she thanked him for being such a great partner during rough times in art school.

"She had no idea what was in store," Lara Simonian said.

Blaeser's only comment to Gretz was "good luck." Gretz's lawyer Ron Meshbesher declined to comment as he left the courthouse.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley shook her head when asked if she could provide any insight into why Gretz killed his wife. "Hopefully we'll find out some day," she said.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747