Jailed for manslaughter
A stepfather says he still believes his Levin-based stepson was murdered, despite three people being imprisoned on lesser charges.
Stoyan Militch, 32, Brayden Windley, 23, and Michael Paul Zimmerman, 30, were sentenced in the High Court at Palmerston North yesterday for killing Michael Les Valentine.
Valentine was 27 when he was stabbed in the hand and chest by Militch on February 1 last year. He bled out on his lawn after the white-handled butcher's knife went through his lung, piercing the right pulmonary vein.
His three killers were put on trial earlier this year charged with murder, but all pleaded guilty to manslaughter one week into the trial.
The killing took place because of grievances Zimmerman and Windley had with Valentine's fiancee, Elizabeth Ham.
Windley was annoyed because Ham had taken a hard-drive of his, while Zimmerman was angry because she had held his toothbrush in front of someone who was urinating into a toilet.
The two, highly intoxicated at a barbecue, talked about the issue before deciding to pay Valentine a visit.
They enlisted the help of Militch, and travelled to Valentine's place armed with weapons and pitbull dogs.
Militch was given the longest sentence - eight years and four months, with a minimum term of five years.
Zimmerman was given seven years, while Windley got five years, and both must serve half their sentences.
They were also each given their first three strikes warning.
Outside court, Valentine's stepfather John Timmer-Arends said he still believed Valentine had been murdered, regardless of the killers' pleas.
"How do three people go to his house with knives and it's not murder?"
The time since his stepson's death had been the worst of his family's lives, he said.
"Time gives coping mechanisms, but it doesn't make it hurt less."
In court, Justice Ronald Young said the death of Valentine was over arguments almost anyone would have resolved differently.
"These events occurred out of trivial matters.
"People with even the smallest amount of sense would have resolved it without violence."
Zimmerman and Militch both had partners and three children each at the time they killed Valentine.
"Did you not give them thought at all?" the judge said.
All three were given different sentences because of their varying roles in Valentine's death.
Militch was given the heaviest sentence as he was the person who stabbed Valentine, while Zimmerman was the person most responsible for the three of them going to Valentine's house, the judge said.
Windley had shown the most remorse, and had also handed himself into police and helped them find the knife, which had been thrown from the window of a car while the killers fled the scene.