Man sentenced to life in prison for killing law clerk

- The St. Paul man who gunned down a young law clerk six months ago was sentenced to life in prison.

Family and friends of 23-year-old Chase Passauer gave heartfelt statements in court almost immediately after the guilty verdicts.

37-year-old Ryan Petersen didn't dispute that he shot and killed Passauer, a 23-year-old law clerk, but claimed he exploded in anger when he couldn't reach his lawyer. The judge hearing the case didn't buy it nor did Passauer's friends and family.

“I knew Chase since he was seven years old as a little kid, brought him into the umpiring arena,” said Mike Bohlken, a friend.

Passauer’s friends from Northstar Umpires came to court with shirts bearing a home plate, the initials C.P. and the number 34 to honor their friend and fellow umpire Chase Passauer. They also honored him on the field.

“There's nothing that's going to bring him back,” said Bohlken. “This sentence means something, but he's not coming back, that's all.”

“I was up with the family at the murder scene and that's - you can't un-see that, you can't lose that mental image,” said Russ Lundquist, a friend.

Chase was shot eight times on April 7 at a law firm on Selby in St. Paul, where he was working as a clerk.

“He'll never be back,” said Joe Derezinski, a friend. “That's the hardest thing. It's an empty feeling.”

Petersen was found guilty by a judge, waiving his right to a jury trial. He was sentenced to life without parole for first degree pre-meditated murder.

He testified he'd gone to the firm that day to fire his lawyer because he was upset he wasn't responding fast enough about a dispute about a parking spot by his business.

Petersen claimed it wasn't planned and that he exploded when he only found Passauer alone in the office. He said that he closed his eyes when he fired in anger through a glass partition and that he didn't know he'd hit him.

But Petersen's longtime girlfriend testified he'd told her by phone he was on his way to kill his lawyer.

In statements before sentencing, Passauer’s sister Chelsea said he was destined for greatness, explaining how he'd worked three jobs to get through school at the University of Minnesota.

"He lived, he loved and he was going to be something amazing," she said. As for Petersen, she said "the only remorse that I did see was for himself."

Passauer’s father, Christopher, didn't read his own impact statement and had the prosecutor read it for him. The prosecutor broke down while reading it, showing an unusual display of emotion. Chris Passauer wrote of his son, "This pain is a black hole. A piece of me died on April 7."

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