Public Safety

Mariana Lesnic sentenced to life in prison in truck driver's fatal shooting

Mariana Lesnic enters the courtroom before being sentenced to life in prison at the Iowa County Courthouse in Marengo on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lesnic was convicted of first-degree murder for the Sept. 6, 2017 shooting of truck driver Ernest Kummer at a rest stop on Interstate 80 near Victor. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Mariana Lesnic enters the courtroom before being sentenced to life in prison at the Iowa County Courthouse in Marengo on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lesnic was convicted of first-degree murder for the Sept. 6, 2017 shooting of truck driver Ernest Kummer at a rest stop on Interstate 80 near Victor. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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MARENGO — A woman convicted in August in the fatal shooting of 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, though she did ask 6th Judicial District Judge Andrew Chappell if she could go ahead and dismiss any appeal when told a public defender would be appointed to help her file an appeal.

Chappell said she could dismiss the appeal later but he was going to appoint a public defender.

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 met her months before when he picked up Lesnic, who was hitchhiking.

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 did not object to him considering them in her sentencing. He pointed out that he had no discretion in sentencing because first-degree murder in Iowa is a mandatory life sentence but he said 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.

The report, conducted on every offender, provides details of the offender’s background, criminal record and their 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 U.S. 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 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 seemed to be a nice man who was only trying to help Lesnic. Rotter said he and other investigators kept thinking there must be “more to the story” but Lesnic never gave any explanation — until the day she testified.

The evidence and Lesnic’s statements to authorities didn’t back up the 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.

In interviews with authorities after the shooting, Lesnic never told them that Kummer threatened her.

Surveillance video from convenience stores while she and Kummer were traveling showed Lesnic had several opportunities to leave. She had her cellphone and a 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.

Lesnic’s ex-husband, Bert Wolfson, told The Gazette following the trial that she is a “female narcissist” who only sees what she wants and tries 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, he said.

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.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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