Valley City native's killer sentenced to life in prison
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP, Ill.
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP, Ill. - Frank Weis lost his only daughter when in March 2003 Vivian Mitchell brutally murdered Lynn Weis, a native of Valley City, N.D.
Mitchell's family will now lose a daughter to life in prison, a fact not lost on the victim's family.
"I know these are bad times for you, but I wish you well," Frank Weis told Vivian Mitchell's mother on Friday after Judge Patricia Piper-Golden sentenced the drifter to life in prison.
"All of our losses are so devastating," Octavia Mitchell said as the two shook hands, adding she was sorry the family was unable to head off Vivian Mitchell's mental illness, which she said led to the murder.
In November 2004, Piper-Golden found Vivian Mitchell guilty but mentally ill in the death of Lynn Weis, who was stabbed more than 80 times in her West Dundee, Ill., home. Sentencing was delayed as the Kane County state's attorney's office pursued the death penalty against Mitchell.
Weis' house was set on fire, alerting authorities to the crime.
Mitchell, 41, was found sleeping in Weis' car in Joliet, Ill., the following day. She had used Weis' credit cards and had attempted to get cash from a riverboat casino using one of those cards.
In addition to the life term for first-degree murder, Piper-Golden added 30 years each for the arson and home invasion counts, three years for forgery and two years for unlawful use of a credit card.
Although the murder was violent and occurred in the course of other felonies, Piper-Golden rejected the death penalty for Mitchell.
The mitigating factor, Piper-Golden said, is that the murder was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.
Experts from both sides of the case agreed Mitchell suffers from paranoid delusions and believes that since 1996 a hate group has been out to destroy her life.
When she was arrested, Mitchell told investigators she went to Weis' home to confront her about that hate group.
Mitchell also told police she met Weis the previous day when Weis gave her a ride from Elgin to West Dundee, but there is no evidence the two ever met before the murder, said Assistant Kane County State's Attorney Jody Gleason.
Mitchell's public defender, David Kliment, said he will appeal both the trial's findings and sentencing on the grounds his client should have been found insane.
The psychiatric help Mitchell will get in prison won't be equal to what she would receive in a mental health facility, he said.
Weis' North Dakota family members spoke to reporters after the sentencing.
"We are happy with this outcome and the results," said brother Douglas Weis of Grand Forks, N.D. "Justice has been served. She (Mitchell) can't go out and hurt anyone else."
Douglas Weis said his sister was "an awesome person" and would have approved of the judge's sentence.
"She is what is good in the world," he said.
Walker is a reporter for the The Courier News in Elgin, Ill.