MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - The 46-year-old man who pleaded guilty to murdering a 31-year-old woman in a downtown Minneapolis parking ramp last summer was sentenced to 24 years in prison Thursday.
Prosecutors say Benjamin Love was trying to rob Mai Yer Cha and her friends when he stabbed her in the heart.
Cha's family filled the courtroom gallery Thursday. She was a single mom and a spiritual healer in her community.
Several people provided victim impact statements, including Cha's mother who spoke through a Hmong interpreter. A video of Cha’s seven-year-old son Aiden was played in court. In the video Aiden said, “Hi Ben, it’s not ok to kill my mom.” The video montage also included the young boy’s drawings of his mom and family.
"He was her pride and joy," said Ting Cha, the victim's sister. "Even in her last conscious moments before her world went black, Mai Yer's last words were, 'tell Aiden I love him.' Everything she did was for him."
Cha was stabbed after she apparently stepped in to shield a friend from Love. She died several days later.
"It has been seven long months since we buried her and I find it impossible to piece back the shattered pieces of my heart," the victim's sister continued. "I feel nothing but darkness."
"We ourselves that night became victims to something I'd never wish upon my enemy," said Bao Hanson, the victim's friend. "Because of Benjamin Love's horrendous and selfish actions that night, we all lost part of ourselves."
Love apologized for murdering Cha.
"I'd like to apologize to the victim family," Love said. "I know they probably don't believe me, but it was an accident. It wasn't meant to happen. And I'm willing to pay the consequence for my stupid mistakes."
He also spoke about seeing his mom killed when he was 13-years-old, saying he could imagine the pain and some of what the family has gone through.
Both sides had previously agreed to Love's 24-year prison sentence as a part of his guilty plea deal.