Convicted murderer gets 213-year sentence

Posted: Thursday, March 09, 2000

Robert V. Freeman was sentenced last week to 213 years in prison following his conviction on charges stemming from the fatal 1998 shootings of two women in his Kasilof residence.

Freeman, 58, was convicted in December on two counts of first-degree murder for the July 17, 1998, shooting of Jean Iwaszko, 33, of Kasilof and Tracy Eason, 28, of Soldotna. He also was convicted on three counts of third-degree assault -- one count for each of the prosecution's three star witnesses who were present during the shootings or shortly thereafter.

Judge Jonathan Link sentenced Freeman to 99 years for each murder count, to be served consecutively, said his attorney, Darrel Gardner of the state Office of Public Advocacy in Anchorage. He sentenced Freeman to five years for each of the three counts of assault, to be served concurrently with the murder sentences.

Gardner said Freeman has indicated his intent to appeal.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense called witnesses during Friday's sentencing. Eason's parents made statements.

"Mr. Freeman gave a brief statement," Gardner said. "Basically, he said he is at a loss to understand how this is happening to him. He continues to maintain his innocence. He says he was in his bedroom with the door shut when the shootings took place. He came out afterward to investigate, found the gun that had been used, and was looking around to see if the person who had done the shootings was still there, when there was a knock at the door."

He said Freeman opened the door and found Sam Strange, a neighbor, who saw him with the gun and fled.

During the trial, though, Jean Iwaszko's 8-year-old son, Levi Iwaszko, testified that he was sitting no more than an arm's length from his mother when Freeman shot her. Levi ran to the Strange family residence. Beth Strange tried to comfort him while Sam Strange, thinking the shooting was an accident, ran to the Freeman residence.

Strange testified that he responded to the Freeman house after the shooting to see if he could be of any help. He told the jury he was met at the door by a bloody-handed Freeman, still carrying his double-action, .44 magnum pistol. Strange sprinted for cover and, as he ran, he could hear Freeman calling after him threatening to shoot him.

Sharene Baker Christensen testified that she hid, first in the bathroom, and later behind a chair as Freeman stalked about the house in a drunken stupor with a big pistol in his hand. Christensen somehow escaped detection and managed to call 911 to report the shootings. The second, fatal shot to Iwaszko could be heard in the background when Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell played the 911 tape for the jury.

Gardner said evidence presented at the trial suggested Freeman was extremely intoxicated during the incident.

Based on that, he argued for lenient sentences.

"My argument was that even though he was convicted of first-degree murder, which is intentional killing, that level of intoxication can reduce intent," he said. "I argued that he should receive a sentence similar to that for aggravated second-degree murder, which by case law, would be about 60 years per count."

He said Link's findings followed the prosecution's arguments closely.

"Judge Link said that in his mind, these were first-degree murders, intentional killing," Gardner said. "The reason was the number of shots. If he had just shot Jean Iwaszko once, and she had died, he would have considered that more like second-degree murder."

However, Gardner said, evidence presented at the trial suggested that Freeman shot Iwaszko once, then shot Eason twice, then returned and shot Iwaszko again.

"The judge said he considered this to be among the most serious of first-degree murders," Gardner said.

So, while Link could have given Freeman concurrent sentences for the two murders, he chose instead to give consecutive sentences.

Gardner said Freeman will have 30 days from the time the court distributes Link's written decision to file a notice of appeal. An appeal could easily take 16 months, he said.

Freeman was still lodged at the Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai on Wednesday. However, Gardner said, he expects Freeman to be transferred soon either to Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward or to the Arizona Central Correctional Center in Florence, Ariz., where Alaska lodges some prisoners.



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