Leroy B. Dick Jr., 44, of Manokotak was sentenced to 99 years in jail for killing unarmed Village Public Safety Officer Thomas Madole on March 19, 2013.
A jury convicted Dick of first-degree murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer at a trial in Dillingham last November. Dick had admitted to killing Madole on several occasions after he was taken into custody, and his lawyers never disputed during the trial that he had done so. Rather, they asked the jury to find Dick guilty of a lesser-included charge of second-degree murder.
The conviction of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer likely sealed Dick's fate behind bars. Alaska's Legislature set a mandatory 99-year prison sentence for that crime.
"The Legislature has made very clear what the sentence shall be, not may be," said presiding Judge Gregory Miller near the end of the hearing. Attorneys for both the defense and prosecution agreed.
Dick is not eligible for mandatory or discretionary parole, or for "good time" reductions to his sentence. After serving half of his prison term, he can apply for a one-time reduction to his sentence.
The courtroom was somber during the sentencing on Feb. 12. Leroy Dick was attentive, polite and more engaged than at his trial. His hair was freshly cut short, in a "high and tight" style. He wore a gray polo shirt, and his prison-issued glasses looked a size too small.
"This is an incredibly tragic case," said Assistant Attorney General Gregg Olson, who prosecuted the case. The "cold, callous murder" was an "especially serious" crime, he said, as it had been committed against a law enforcement officer.
Society, said Olson, has "asked law enforcement officers to walk into harm's way," and he noted that village public safety officers do so unarmed.
Officer Madole's widow, Luan Madole, spoke by phone at the hearing. She cried as she told the court how the murder had changed life for her family "completely."
"I have been lost, confused and alone. The day I said goodbye to Tom was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. My heart was broken," she said.
Luan Madole said she believed that had her husband been armed that day, the outcome might have been different.
"But what I believe or think doesn't really matter," she said. "The bottom line is this: Tom went to Leroy's home unarmed to uphold the law. Along with that came a genuine pastor's heart that cared for Leroy."
Before he became a VPSO, Tom Madole had been a pastor in Missouri for several years, and served as the pastor of the Bethel Community Assembly of God church from 2000 to 2006.
Luan Madole told the court that she had first grown angry with her husband's killer during the trial, after seeing the photos of his body and listening to the agonizing audio tape of the murder. But she had earlier chosen, with the help of prayer, to forgive Leroy Dick.
"Tom would want all of us to choose forgiveness," she said.
Leroy Dick stared at the floor as several of his family members, present in court, stood to speak.
His sister Molly Wise recalled Leroy as a loving brother who had become mentally ill.
"Over the years, in the late '90s, I noticed he was different," she said. "He was still my brother but it was like he was not my brother. He was going through some sort of breakdown."
She said the signs had grown more troubling in recent years and had been very concerning to the family in the weeks before the murder.
"I'll always love my brother but I'll never understand what happened that day," she said.
"We loved Tom, because he loved us," said Olga Dick, Leroy's mother, who had called for the VPSO to respond on the day of the murder. "I'm really sorry this happened."
Leroy Dick addressed the court from a written statement. He apologized to the Madole family, and his own, and thanked the court staff and law enforcement officers who had handled his case.
Judge Miller said he had little to add at the end of the hearing.
"I usually try to find appropriate words at sentencings but I don't have any today. There's nothing good about today," he said, before imposing the 99-year sentence.
Before the hearing concluded, Luan Madole asked that Leroy Dick not be restricted from contacting her. She has visited him in custody, and the two have corresponded by mail.
Judge Miller also called attention to the letter that Luan Madole had written the court for the pre-sentence report.
"Thank you for your letter," he said. "We get a lot of these. That's one I'll remember forever."
The two-hour hearing concluded around 11:30 a.m., and the parties stepped out of court to a bright, sunny February day.
Eva Bartman, Leroy Dick's aunt, had come to court to speak on his behalf.
"Well, time to move on," she said, pushing on her sunglasses.
This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing