KINGMAN – Standing in the courtroom in tears, Anthony Zdanowski, 27, of Kingman apologized to everyone in his family for the harm he had done, especially to his father, whom he killed in March 2005.
He told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn that he regretted the crimes he had committed and pleaded for a chance to correct himself in the future.
But his emotional confession seemed to come a little too late. Considering all the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, Conn sentenced Zdanowski to 24 years in prison – 22 years for second-degree murder and two years for tampering with evidence.
The 24 years behind bars is the maximum sentence under a plea agreement reached earlier by both attorneys. Zdanowski pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a tampering with evidence, according to the agreement.
In the hearing prior to the sentencing, defense attorney Alex Harris of Prescott described Zdanowski as a man who grew up in a miserable family environment and killed his father in anger while under the influence of methamphetamine.
When Zdanowski was still a child, his father, Michael Zdanowski, the victim, molested his sister. The family tragedy has haunted Zdanowski through his childhood and adult life, Harris said.
When Zdanowski found that his son might have been molested by his father in March 2005, he got angry and decided to do something to make sure the same tragedy wouldn’t happen to his son again. Under the influence of methamphetamine, Zdanowski killed his father with a gun, Harris said.
Harris said Zdanowski showed apparent remorse for the crime in her several interviews with him and told her it was methamphetamine that caused him to go out of control.
Zdanowski’s miserable childhood, his remorse to his father’s death and the fact he committed the crime under the influence of methamphetamine should constitute mitigating factors for his final sentence, Harris said.
Prosecutor Lee Jantzen presented the court a totally different picture. Zdanowski killed his father because he wanted to get his money after his father disappointed him with his behavior and told him to leave the house, Jantzen said.
Still under probation, Zdanowski asked a friend to purchase a gun for him and shot his dad in the head on March 28, 2005. He drove his father’s truck to Laughlin casinos the second day, paid for a luxury hotel room with his father’s credit card, and played there for a couple of days.
“When he was partying down in Laughlin, his father’s body was probably still warm,” Jantzen told the judge.
Zdanowski purchased a number of items in the following days with his father’s credit card and tried but failed to cash in his father’s checks with forged signatures, Jantzen said.
Trying to hide the evidence of the murder, Zdanowski cleaned the house, washed the blood-stained floor and repainted the wall. He chopped his father’s body in parts and tried to burn them before hiding them in the desert in Golden Valley.
After Zdanowski was arrested, police officers found his father’s remains in Golden Valley following his directions, Jantzen said.
The cruel nature of the killing, the fact that Zdanowski was still under probation at the time of the crime, a history of armed robbery and his act of trying to destroy the evidence should be legitimate aggravating factors for the final sentence, Jantzen said.
After hearing the arguments, Conn said there were several versions of how, where and why this tragedy happened, but none of them were really convincing.
But the fact was Zdanowski did kill his father, Conn said.
No matter what Zdanowski’s father had really done to Zdanowski’s son, Conn said, Zdanowski had no right to deprive him of his life. Though Conn said he did give considerations to Zdanowski’s psychological suffering in his childhood, he could not find any direct connection between his suffering and the killing of his father more then 10 years later.
Though the dismembering and burning of Michael Zdanowski’s body was something horrible to the victim’s relatives, the act did not increase the suffering of the victim, Conn said. He preferred not to see the cruel nature of killing as an aggravating circumstance. But Zdanowski’s act of trying to destroy the evidence of the killing would be considered an aggravating factor in the case, Conn said.
Conn refused to buy the argument that Zdanowski had shown remorse.
“If someone killed someone and a year later says “I’m sorry,” it’s not something that can lessen the consequences of the crime,” Conn said.
Reviewing all the evidence thoroughly, Conn said he decided to impose the maximum sentence on Zdanowski under the plea agreement.
Zdanowski has 90 days to file a petition to challenge the sentence.