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Remorseful Wimmer gets 25 years

Robert Wimmer did not ask for leniency as he stood in court at the end of an emotional hearing Thursday and apologized for his crimes against his wife, Holly McFadden.

“I’ve done very terrible things to Holly. Stuff I never wished I did. Stuff I never wanted to do...” he said. “If it would make Holly feel better if I am in prison, that’s all I ask.”

It was the first public show of remorse from the 27-year-old Oak Harbor man, who was convicted of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree rape, first-degree burglary and unlawful imprisonment following two jury trials.

Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock obliged Wimmer. He sentenced him to 25 and a half years in prison, the top of the standard range for the crimes.

Hancock said Wimmer’s crimes were among the most brutal that he ever had to deal with during his 17 years on the bench.

“Mr. Wimmer came within a hair’s breadth of killing Ms. McFadden,” he said. “That close, folks.”

Hancock said he was mindful of the pleas for mercy from Wimmer’s family and friends, but that the victim is his “paramount consideration.” Wimmer’s mother, brother and attorney gave powerful testimony, describing the young man’s difficult childhood and mental health problems.

“I know Robert is a good and loving person...” Ray Wimmer said, sobbing. “He’s an extremely sensitive person who’s not able to deal with his powerful feelings appropriately.”

Hancock chose not to hand Wimmer the exceptional sentence recommended by Prosecutor Greg Banks.

Banks asked that Wimmer spend more than 31 years in prison. The jury found that Wimmer committed the rape with sexual motivation, a finding that would allow an exceptional sentence of six extra years beyond the standard range.

But Hancock decided that the sexual motivation in Wimmer’s crimes was already accounted for with the rape conviction.

Hancock also took the time to honor McFadden’s neighbor, April Chapel. The woman saw Wimmer dragging McFadden into her apartment June 20, 2004. She knocked on the door and demanded to speak to McFadden. She realized something was wrong and immediately called 911, bringing police who broke down the door and shot Wimmer with a Taser gun.

Chapel was also a valuable witness for the prosecution in the two trials.

“April Chapel is a hero,” Hancock said, “and she should be receiving a medal. .. She might well have saved Molly McFadden’s life.”

Banks went over the details of the case in his remarks and sentencing memorandum. He described how the 24-year-old victim was living in an Oak Harbor apartment with a friend and went to lengths to conceal the location from Wimmer, her estranged husband.

But on the morning of Dec. 20, Wimmer tracked her down. He forced his way into her apartment and brutally raped her. After she tried to escape, he pushed her to the ground and choked her until she lost consciousness.

Wimmer ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife when police arrived. He held the knife to his dazed wife’s throat, and later his own, until police kicked in the door and subdued him.

“He violated her and terrorized her in the most henious ways,” Banks said. He said the incident could have ended up as “a capital case” if April Chapel and the police hadn’t saved her.

Wimmer went to trial twice. The first time, the jury convicted him of the rape charge and was hung on the other counts. Banks took over the second trial and got a conviction on the other charges.

At the hearing Thursday, Banks said he was troubled by a pre-sentencing investigation report written by a Department of Corrections officer. The report focused on Wimmer’s mental health problems and troubled childhood in and out of state facilities and treatment programs.

“It almost seems to justify or excuse his behavior,” Banks said.

Banks also said he was outraged at Wimmer’s comment to the Department of Corrections that he “does not like calling his ex-wife a victim, and feels ... that he is a victim as well.”

“For Mr. Wimmer to say that she’s not a victim, for his to say that he’s the victim,” Banks said, “is a great reason for an exceptional sentence.”

During sentencing, a domestic abuse advocate read a statement from McFadden, who was at the hearing but didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of Wimmer and his family. McFadden described how the trauma affected her self confidence, her feeling of safety, her peace of mind and her friendships.

McFadden, a sailor at the Navy base, wrote that she was reassigned to janitorial duty because Navy officials felt she was “no longer fit for duty.”

“My life will never be the same,” she wrote.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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