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Wife gets 28 years for murder

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Speaking softly and slowly, Cordee Jo Tungseth apologized for shooting and killing her husband last summer, telling friends and family members "there's just no words" to explain it.

Cordee Jo Tungseth

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Speaking softly and slowly, Cordee Jo Tungseth apologized for shooting and killing her husband last summer, telling friends and family members "there's just no words" to explain it.

"There's just no way to ever begin to tell you how sorry I am," Tungseth, 46, told the 11 supporters at her sentencing hearing Friday.

She received a 28-year prison sentence for the July 22 shooting death of her husband, Steven, 52, which Otter Tail County District Court Judge Barbara Hanson called a "reasonable response."

The sentence came after a plea deal in which Tungseth pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in February and the state dropped a first-degree murder charge, which carries a life sentence without parole.

Tungseth will be eligible for parole in 18Xc years.

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She has described July 22 as "a day like any other" and said she lied to police when she told them her husband had threatened to kill her before he left that day.

She told police she waited at the kitchen table with a 12-gauge shotgun for her husband to come home. She shot him once in the chest about 5:40 p.m. and said she fired off a practice round earlier to see how much the gun kicked.

After the shooting, she called her children and told them not to come home, then called 911 to report the shooting about 10 minutes after it happened, according to transcripts of the call.

She testified in February she was not taking her prescriptions for bipolar disorder, something her attorney said he believes played a role in the shooting.

"People don't ask for a mental illness; it's there, it's not their choice," Deven Nice said.

Tungseth did not meet Minnesota's test to use mental illness as a defense, a requirement Nice said the Legislature needs to re-examine.

Otter Tail County Attorney David Hauser also mentioned Tungseth's possible state of mind, saying, "We have a troubled woman and an ugly circumstance."

Hauser said he believed the sentence matched the crime, specifically citing that it gives Tungseth a chance for parole.

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Tungseth was given credit for 287 days she spent in custody and ordered to pay $1,082 in fines and court fees. She will be required to serve a maximum 112 months on supervised release if paroled.

She must also pay $6,500 in restitution for her husband's funeral expenses. She was denied a request in July to attend the funeral.

Tungseth will serve her sentence at the women's Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee and is expected to be transported there next week, Hauser said.

Nice said Tungseth is "going through a rough time," but has "100 percent remorse" for her actions.

Her family did not make victim impact statements and declined to comment after the hearing. Hauser said they seemed to be doing fine.

Some of her family and friends appeared to be crying as she apologized for taking a brother, a father and a friend.

"I will live with that the rest of my life," she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541

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