A 25-year-old Woodbury woman was sentenced to 16½ years Monday for the attempted murder of a Minneapolis police forensic scientist in a plot to gain her boyfriend full custody of his son.
Colleen Purificacion Larson waived her right to a jury trial with a guilty plea last month in Hennepin County District Court days after Timothy Amacher, 41, was sentenced to 18 years for attempted first-degree murder for helping devise and cover up the shooting of Nicole Ford, the mother of his son. Ford, who previously held the last name Lenway, had won sole custody after a bitter, yearslong court battle that led up to the ambush shooting outside a supervised visitation facility, FamilyWise, on April 20, 2022.
Ford said while standing before a courtroom full of loved ones and Minneapolis Police Department colleagues that if Larson had been successful, her son would be motherless.
"I don't know what's worse: a vindictive ex who manipulates someone else to kill someone or a vulnerable stranger who blindly agrees to take someone's life without a second thought and zero remorse. Both are incredibly dangerous. Both are equally culpable."
Prosecutors wanted the maximum 17 ½ years for Larson. Her attorneys, James Gempeler and Daniel Adkins, were asking District Judge Shereen Askalani for probation and to place blame on Amacher and his manipulation. Adkins said that Amacher had tried to kill Ford twice before and it was his evil that led to this third attempt.
"This is a redemption project," Adkins said to Askalani, adding that Larson has shown remorse and taken responsibility for her actions.
But Askalani said the only remorse Larson has shown was for the pain she caused her own family, and there were no factors to allow a downward departure in Larson's sentence for first-degree attempted murder.
"The remorse is for the impact this has had on her loved ones and on her life; there has been no remorse displayed by Ms. Larson for almost taking someone's life," Askalani said.
"Ms. Larson has stated that she doesn't know what she would do differently. By everyone's accounts, Ms. Larson has been described as naïve, immature at times and easily manipulated," Askalani said. "However, she's also a 25-year-old woman who is educated. She's a graduate from a university. She was a productive, functioning adult in society."
Askalani repeated what Ford mentioned in her victim impact statement about Larson's continued willingness to attend therapy as an indication of her wanting to better her life. But in her statement, Ford pointed out that Larson was already in therapy when she chose to try to kill her.
Ford also said that Larson is still in contact with Amacher and his inner circle "communicating her love for him, even expressing she wants a future with him. Even today almost a year later, she remains steadfast in her love for Tim."
In her guilty plea to attempted first-degree murder last month, Larson admitted to running up behind Ford and shooting her as she approached the entrance to pick up her son — who was inside with Amacher — and continued shooting after Ford dropped to the ground, suffering from a point-blank shot to her neck that made it so she couldn't speak to the dispatcher when she called 911.
"She stood over me, which felt like only inches away, continuing in her attempts to end my life, even pursuing me after I fled from her," Ford said. "She has even admitted she had every intention of killing me."
Ford was intubated in the hospital for days, forced to communicate on written pieces of paper. She has since returned to work at the department. Weeks before Amacher's trial, she married MPD officer Donovan Ford.
Larson's attorneys read a brief prepared statement on her behalf as well as a letter from Larson's father. She wrote that she accepts all consequences and wants atonement. She said she hopes to be a small-business owner to "promote healthy lifestyle through routine exercises and activities" and continue her spiritual journey with the support of family.
Wayne Larson asked the judge to be lenient on his daughter. "To make her snap, there had to be extreme pressure on her. … If it was not for him, she would not be where she is now."
Larson said at her February plea hearing that Amacher provided his new truck, which didn't yet have license plates, and his gun, which investigators never found, to carry out the attack.
Askalani said while Amacher is the one who conceived the plot and had strong motive to want Ford dead, Larson is the one who went to FamilyWise with a loaded gun.
"Mrs. Ford is alive not because Ms. Larson abandoned the plan for the plot to kill her, but because Ms. Larson was unsuccessful," Askalani said. "And Mrs. Ford only survived because the bullet did not hit major organs or an artery. … That was a narrow miss."
The attack, including Larson stalking beforehand and fleeing afterward, was captured on home surveillance in the neighborhood as well as area businesses around FamilyWise. Amacher's truck was also equipped with GPS monitoring that traced her route.
Ford said that Larson's admission of guilt means little considering her guilt was clearly caught on camera. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton said there wouldn't be the acceptance of responsibility if not for the videos.
"This is not a case with the history of extreme cooperation," Lofton said. "This is a case where the evidence was really, really strong."
He added that Larson still believes she had to kill Ford based on the lies, conspiracies and manipulation of Amacher. But Lofton said Amacher is no sorcerer.
"She made her own decisions that day. They were very cold. They were very calculated. They were based on a complex plan. And they were carried out quite effectively. Thank God Mrs. Ford survived, but it was pretty close."
Larson, who has been out on bail for months on home monitoring, was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.
Ford watched the legal closure unfold before her in silence, then stepped outside the courtroom to hug her mother, friends and colleagues.