THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — In March of 2019, 24-year-old Devon Pulczinski murdered 23-year-old Alexandra Ellingson inside his Thief River Falls apartment. Prosecutors pointed out this case might have been much worse if people driving by the home had not noticed the flames.

"That fire endangered a family living below the defendants apartment, Ricardo Martinez and his three children. If it had not been for the good Samaritans there is a good opportunity, we would have four additional bodies," said Minnesota Assistant Attorney General John Gross who prosecuted the case.

Prosecutors say he tied her up, strangled her, covered her face, poured gas on her and set her on fire. They allege Pulczinski thought Ellingson may have been stealing from him.

"He was a good person, didn't have much involvement with the law, a nice, caring person, but for the infection of a disease and things spiraled," said his lawyer Anthony Bussa during a sentencing hearing Friday, Oct. 16.

Ellingson's family was informed of the murder the same day her son celebrated his second birthday. They talked about his frequent visits to his mother's grave.

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"He asks for mommy. He wants a shovel to dig up mommy," her aunt Cathie Thompson told the court.

Pulczinski said he had nothing to say during court Friday.

He essentially knew his fate coming to court after being convicted of first-degree pre-mediated murder. The judge had only one option.

"That you be sentenced to prison for the rest of your life without the possibility of release," said Minnesota District Court judge Tamara Yon.

What makes this tough for those involved, Pulczinski was supposed to begin treatment at an out of town drug rehab center the next day.

"Mr. Pulzciski, I'm sure you wish you got on that train that had been setup for you. The jury found you made different choices and now here we all are. These families have been ripped apart and suffering," said Judge Yon.

One other person was at the crime scene that day, but prosecutors granted him immunity at the trial for his testimony against Pulczinski.