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Family of murdered Grand Forks mother calls 35 year sentence 'another slap on the wrist'

27-year-old Ahmed Abdullahi has nearly two dozen convictions on his record, and had just threatened to shoot-up a bar.

Ahmed Abdullahi
27-year-old Ahmed Abdullahi waits to hear if a judge will accept a plea deal for him to serve 35 years for murder.
Matt Henson/WDAY
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GRAND FORKS - Another get out of jail free card.

That's what the family of 28-year-old Megan Gustafson believes the legal system has given to her killer, a man in his mid 20s with nearly two dozen convictions.

The family made it clear they did not support the plea deal for Ahmed Abdullahi to spend 35 years in prison for murder.

"It's scary to think what he would do if he was out again," said Gustafson's grandmother Diane Gustafson.

The judge even allowed the family to take a poll during the hearing. Not a single family member raised their hand in support.

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The family even pointed out that the prosecutor in this case, Assistant Grand Forks County State's Attorney Carmell Mattison is the one who insisted on life without parole for the man who killed Grand Forks police officer Cody Holte.

"Is Megan's life worth less? That's what it appears the state thinks," said Megan's dad Chad Gustafson.

The mother of a 9-year-old daughter was shot in the neck last September shortly after she told the police to go away from her north end home.

Officers thought Abdullahi may be hiding there, because he was wanted for an attempted armed robbery that occurred earlier in the day.

With his family sitting behind him, Abdullahi admitted in court Wednesday he was drunk and stoned when he pulled the trigger.

"I'm so sorry, I don't know what I did, I wish I could bring your daughter back, but I'm sorry, I don't know what happened," said Abdullahi.

His lawyer Tyler Morrow asked the judge to give him just 20 years, saying that sentence compares to other murder sentences with plea agreements.

Weeks before the murder Abdullahi escaped a lenghty prison term for threatening to shoot up a bar.

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"This defendant has probably been granted more breaks than probably warranted," said Mattison.

"His whole criminal history he got slapped on the wrist, slapped on the wrist, slapped on the wrist. The last slap on the wrist he used that opportunity to murder my daughter. He's had enough chances, he's had enough deals. He doesn't even deserve to breathe let alone get a deal," said Megan's dad.

It appeared the only way Abdullahi would get life is if the case went to trial.

However, Abdullahi's lawyer pointed out that could be risky. He said Grand Forks police initially handcuffed Gustafson before getting her medical attention.

"That opens up the door for expert witnesses to say but for their actions she would be here today. We are choosing not to go that route," said Morrow.

Judge Jay Knudson agreed to stick with the plea deal, saying it compared to other cases, it's one of the tougher sentences for a plea deal involving murder.

"There's value in having the case closed, in the sense that everybody doesn't have to live through a trial," said Knudson.

"To me this is just another slap on the wrist," said Gustafson's dad as he left court.

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When Abdullahi is released from prison he will likely be deported back to Somali.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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