MARENGO — A woman, convicted in August for killing a Monroe truck driver last year, was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
Mariana Lesnic, a U.S. citizen originally from Moldova, a border country of Romania, declined to speak during sentencing, and even asked 6 Judicial District Judge Andrew Chappell if she could just dismiss any appeal now when told he would appoint her a public defender to help file the appeal.
Chappell said she could dismiss the appeal later.
An Iowa County jury found Lesnic, who defended herself, guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Ernest Kummer 60, on Sept. 6, 2017. Kummer had met Lesnic months before while she was hitchhiking, which later led to his death.
Lesnic admitted during trial that she shot Kummer four times in the head at close range while he was sleeping in his semi-trailer cab at a rest stop on Interstate 80 near Victor.
Kummer’s family members didn’t attend Monday’s hearing but did submit victim impact statements to the court. His sister-in-law and a woman he and his deceased wife regarded as their daughter attended the trial in August.
Chappell said none of the statements were from immediate family but Lesnic didn’t object to him considering those. He pointed out that he had no discretion in sentencing because first-degree murder in Iowa is a mandatory life sentence but this was a “heinous crime that was completely unjustified.”
A presentencing report couldn’t be completed in this case because Lesnic refused to be interviewed, Chappell noted.
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The report, conducted on every offender, provides details of the offender’s background, criminal record and his/her own account of the crime for judges to consider at sentencing.
Lesnic, who had no known address at the time but has lived in the country since 2001, didn’t show any reaction to the sentence. She only spoke when arguing about the appeal.
Lesnic, in testifying during trial, told a rambling and sometimes confusing account of what happened during those early morning hours in Kummer’s truck before he was shot. She ultimately admitted that she made the decision to shoot him and intended to kill him.
Lesnic said she shot Kummer because he threatened her with a gun, “pressured” her to have sex and wouldn’t let her leave once they were traveling together.
Iowa County Sheriff Rob Rotter said after the trial that the investigation was fairly straightforward, that Kummer just seemed to be a nice man who tried to help her. He and the other investigators kept thinking there must be “more to the story” but Lesnic never gave any explanation — until the day she testified.
The evidence or even Lesnic’s statements to authorities didn’t back up her account she gave at trial. Testimony showed Kummer picked her up in Nebraska and agreed to take her to Washington state after he hauled a load to the Chicago area, but Kummer’s boss testified Kummer planned to take her back to Nebraska.
Lesnic never told authorities that Kummer threatened her after the shooting.
Surveillance video from convenience stores while she and Kummer were traveling showed Lesnic had several opportunities to get away from him. She had her cellphone and her gun with her during their travels.
Investigators testified that Kummer didn’t have any firearms at his house, as Lesnic claimed, or with him in the truck.
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Lesnic’s ex-husband, Bert Wolfson, told The Gazette following the trial that she was a “female narcissist” who only sees what she wants and look to see who she can victimize. Wolfson said he knew this because had been willing to help her once, too.
He was shocked to learn she shot Kummer in such a coldblooded way because when they were married she wanted nothing to do with guns.
Chappell also ordered Lesnic to pay victim’s restitution of $150,000 to Kummer’s estate and $4,768 to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.
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