Trio avoid murder rap

The stepfather of Michael Valentine says he is not happy the three men who killed the 27-year-old Levin man have avoided murder convictions by pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Stoyan Militch, 32, Brayden Windley, 23, and Michael Paul Zimmerman, 30, were on trial in the High Court in Palmerston North this week, each charged with murdering Valentine on February 1 last year.

Ambulance and police officers found the young father on the front lawn of his home on an unnamed gravel road off State Highway 1, 7 kilometres north of Levin.

He had been stabbed with a knife once in his chest and died at the scene.

The trial ended yesterday morning after all three pleaded guilty to Valentine's manslaughter.

The trio had already pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

After the pleas, Valentine's stepfather John Timmer-Arends said he was unhappy with the result, but had to rely on the advice given by the police and Crown prosecution service.

"It is not the outcome we wanted, but the outcome we have got and we accept it and have to live with it," Timmer-Arends said.

"In the final event, those guys went to another person's house with knives. Michael died, and he didn't kill himself."

The family was still struggling to cope with their loss, he said.

"We are the ones with the life sentence.

"Time helps you deal with it, but it doesn't bring forgiveness or make things OK. It will never be OK."

Timmer-Arends said he could not forgive the three men for what they had done to Valentine and his family.

The family wanted to thank everyone who had helped and supported them during the 15 months since Valentine died, including those who continued to give them support, especially the Red Raincoat and Sensible Sentencing trusts.

Once the guilty pleas were entered, Justice Ronald Young told the jury the Crown had decided the appropriate charge was manslaughter.

The three men will be sentenced next month, where they will also be given a three strikes warning.

Manawatu Standard