Posted at: 07/26/2013 10:08 AM
Updated at: 07/26/2013 5:47 PM
By: Jon Ellis and Travis Dill
The suspect in the death of Trina Langenbrunner has been sentenced to decades in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Joseph John Couture, 42, entered the plea Friday morning. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated witness tampering and aiding and abetting arson in the first degree. The charges were filed in the September 2000 death of Langenbrunner, who was 33.
Prosecutors alleged Couture, who lived a block away from Langebrunner, stabbed her 29 times and left her on the side of a road on the Fond du Lac Reservation near Brookston. According to the criminal complaint, on the night Langenbrunner died, a witness saw Couture "covered in blood, light a fire with the aid of gasoline, strip off his clothing and shoes and burn them."
The case remained unsolved until Couture's arrest last year. Authorities looked into nearly 1,000 leads during the 12-year investigation.
At Friday's hearing, a judge sentenced Couture to 39 years and 4 months in prison.
Assistant Attorney Jessica Smith said putting Couture in prison brings closure for the family.
“We're satisfied with the result. We think it's a just resolution. I know the family is relieved to have some answers and have this behind them at this point,” Smith said.
The victim's mother commended everyone that worked on the case after the hearing on Friday.
“I just want to thank St. Louis County and Jessica and everybody that's helped with the case, get it solved, find the killer of my daughter,” Margaret Dupuis said.
However, after hearing Couture's testimony other family members responded emotionally in court.
Trina's husband, Shawn Langenbrunner, called Couture a “repulsive human being” and said Couture should never be able to walk free.
Couture also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting witness tampering and arson. Couture admitted he guided his girlfriend, Sandra Couture, to intimidate witnesses. She admitted to setting fire to the property of a witness and killing two dogs in separate court proceedings.
St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said the plea deal provided a more certain result than moving forward with prosecution.
“There's an agreement made and that agreement assures certainty that (Couture) will be in prison. The case is resolved. Our questions have been answered,” Rubin said.