STILLWATER, Minn. (KMSP) - Stephen Allwine told a Washington County courtroom he always loved his wife, Amy, and did not kill her.
“I’ve never asked for anything, except to work for God,” said Allwine, 44, who was a deacon and elder in his church.
Judge B. William Ekstrum, clearly annoyed, did not buy it. “You are an incredible actor, a hypocrite, and a cold and calculating killer,” said Ekstrum, as he sentenced Allwine to life in prison without parole.
On Wednesday, it took a jury only eight hours of deliberation to find Allwine guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.
“This was an entirely circumstantial case,” said Washington County Assistant Attorney Fred Fink. “It was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together for the jury to convict him.”
The court heard victim impact statements from Amy’s friends and family. But few of those comments were critical of Stephen, her killer. In a letter submitted to the court, Amy’s parents referred to Stephen’s betrayal, and said he was a “selfish person.” But added, “forgiveness will take time.”
During the eight-day trial the court room was packed with friends who knew the couple from church and Amy’s dog training business. “It was very supportive for the entire thing,” said Allwine’s defense attorney, Kevin Devore. “It goes beyond the love one might expect.”
“It’s pretty extraordinary, just the facts and people’s reaction to those facts,” said Fink.
“THERE’S BLOOD ALL OVER”
Amy Allwine, 43, was found shot to death on November 13, 2016, inside the couple’s Cottage Grove home on 110th St. Stephen Allwine told police that he and his 10-year old son discovered the body when they came home. He said earlier in the day, Amy was sick and he had asked his father-in-law to take his son so he could take Amy to the doctor.
In the 911 call to police by Stephen made it sound like a suicide. “I think my wife shot herself,” he told the 911 dispatcher. “There’s blood all over.” In the background, the couple’s son can be heard saying to his father, “Are you going to remarry?”
To Cottage Grove Police it appeared the crime scene had been staged. The gun was near her left hand, and she was right handed. It appeared her body had been moved. It also appeared as though someone had attempted to clean the crime scene.
And then there was the issue of the hit man.
THE ‘BESA MAFIA’ SCAM
Nine months before Amy was killed, in February of 2016, the FBI had contacted the Allwines and Cottage Grove Police to tell them agents had shut down a phony murder-for-hire operation on the so-called Dark Net called Besa Mafia. Someone with the name “DogDayGod” had transferred $12,000 in untraceable Bitcoin in an attempt to hire a hit man. The person represented themselves as a competitor of Amy Allwine’s dog training business.
But the FBI apparently never considered Stephen Allwine a suspect.
The break in the case would come when a computer forensic expert, Mark Lanterman, discovered a 34-digit Bitcoin address on Allwine’s computer. It matched the same address obtained when FBI agents shut down Besa Mafia. Prosecutors say Besa Mafia was a scam to begin with and there were never any hit men.
Cottage Grove Detective Randy McAlister discovered "DogDayGod" also attempted to buy the anti-nausea drug Scopolamine on a Dark Net site called "Dream Market." In heavy doses, the drug can make people disoriented and extremely compliant. The autopsy revealed Amy had been given 20 times the therapeutic dose of Scopolamine.
TAKING HIS BIBLE TO PRISON
Allwine did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial. His defense attorney said they spoke exhaustively about the decision. Allwine’s rambling and disjointed eight-minute statement before sentencing represents his only public comments.
“I never went to sleep, and I never woke up without kissing her,” Allwine told the court before he was sentenced. “The grief of losing her is tremendous.”
“No one ever talked bad about our relationship,” said Allwine. He said they never even argued.
Allwine said he has met drug addicts, child molestors, and kidnappers while in the Washington County Jail, and he’s been conducting Bible study.
“I’m going to take my Bible to St. Cloud (Prison), and see what happens,” Allwine said.
The salacious nature of the case has attracted the interest of news networks like CBS’s “48 Hours,” NBC’s “Dateline,” and CNN.
But Washington County Assistant Attorney Jamie Lynn Kreuser said prosecutors remained focused on the victim. “At the end of the day justice was served, and I’m glad for Amy and her family.”
HIS CHURCH RESPONDS
The Council of Elders at Allwine's church, the United Church of God, removed him from ministry in 2017 after he was charged with first-degree murder. This week the church responded to the sentencing. Here is their statement in part:
“Because of the sensational nature of the facts surrounding the case, a considerable number of international and national media outlets covered the events leading up to and including the trial.
“It is our fervent hope that all will continue praying to our merciful Father about the entire situation and be compassionate about what the extended families are going through.
“Here is an important point: while we certainly respect the verdict, at the same time we personally are not to sit in judgment.
“We can have confidence that our all-knowing God is aware of all aspects regarding this tragic situation.
“As a result, we will not be making speculative comments about the verdict.”