(Kitsap Sun) --- On Tuesday Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton sentenced David Kalac to 82 years in prison after a jury convicted him last month of first-degree murder for strangling and posting gruesome photos of his ex girlfriend Amber Coplin to the internet.
Before Dalton announced Kalac’s sentence, she urged him to better himself while in prison.
“There’s consequences, and you have to suffer that consequence,” Dalton told Kalac, 35, who nodded as she spoke to him. “I hope you choose life.”
Just before hearing his sentence for what have been called the “4chan murder,” named after the website Kalac posted the photos, Kalac apologized.
“The only thing I can say is, I am sorry and I will never forgive myself,” Kalac said during the emotional hearing, where Coplin’s loved ones wore purple in her honor and wept as they described their grief to Dalton.
A juror also attended the sentencing, and said he believes the jury reached the correct verdict.
At trial, Kalac did not deny he killed Coplin, but argued that he was in the throes of severe alcoholism and remembered neither the lead up to Coplin’s death nor his actions immediately afterward. Following Coplin’s death, Kalac wrote messages on the walls of her room and her body, then on Nov. 4, 2014, posted the photos to the website. He surrendered to police the next day after fleeing to Oregon.
His attorneys argued that he was incapable of premeditation and should have been convicted of second-degree murder or a lesser crime, such as first-degree manslaughter.
“I understand the doubts,” Kalac wrote on the internet site, where he said Coplin fought him as he killed her and that he planned to "commit suicide by cop." “Just check the f------ news.”
Dalton remarked that she had never seen a homicide like Coplin’s because of Kalac posting the crime scene photos. Coplin’s family saw them, including at least one of her children, and despite 4chan removing them from its site, they remain widely available on the internet. Dalton said the indignity shown Coplin will hinder the healing of Coplin’s loved ones, the community and the world.
“It will never go away,” said Ione George, the lead prosecutor on the case, while asking Dalton to give Kalac an effective life sentence. “The impact on this family and this world will never go away.”
To account for the posting of the photos, and for knowingly leaving Coplin’s body where Kalac knew her son would find her, prosecutors added aggravators to the charge -- one for a foreseeable impact beyond the victim of his crime and another for showing an egregious lack of remorse.
Jurors convicted Kalac on the aggravators as well. This allowed Dalton to sentence him in excess of the maximum sentence for which he would have been eligible, 41 years. Dalton effectively doubled that sentence.
Kalac’s lead attorney, Adrian Pimentel, argued that doubling the sentence was “tantamount” to a sentence for killing two people and asked Dalton to impose a sentence of 45 years.
“As heinous as it was to post the photos on the internet, it is not the same as killing someone,” Pimentel said.
Kalac will appeal.
Coplin’s loved ones described the loss as losing part of their lives, their bodies and their hearts.
“Those pictures will forever haunt me,” one of Coplin’s sons wrote in a letter to Dalton.
Rebecca Coplin, grandmother to Coplin’s five children, said Coplin’s youngest son still watches out the window for his mother to come take him to the park and that sometimes the boys still wake up screaming in the night.
“Please make sure this person doesn’t have the chance to hurt these boys ever again,” Rebecca Coplin said.
Lori Kalac, David Kalac’s aunt, told Dalton that alcoholism, domestic violence and mental illness have real consequences and that her family’s hearts to go out those affected.
“My hope is that something positive can come out of this nightmare,” she said.
One of the jurors on the seven-week trial, who spoke to the Kitsap Sun with the understanding that his name would not be published, said he attended the sentencing, “Just to be there and have a sense of completion.”
The juror said he approached Kalac’s alcoholism defense, so-called “diminished capacity,” with an open mind, but was ultimately unpersuaded. The crux of the first-degree murder charge is premeditation, which in state law is defined as occurring over “more than a moment in point of time.”
Prosecutors argued that evidence showed Kalac first strangled Coplin with his hands, then a ligature.
“He said himself that he put his hands around her neck, then there were rope marks,” the juror said. “That was enough (to convict.)”
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