Prokopovitz sentenced to life in prison, no parole, for killing missing wife
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Brown County man convicted for the murder of his missing wife Victoria Prokopovitz has learned his fate.
James Prokopovitz, 75, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole Wednesday afternoon for 1st Degree Intentional Homicide. That sentencing includes six years of initial confinement.
Prokopovitz himself declined to speak during the sentencing hearing.
Judge William Atkinson went on to say there were many things in favor of Prokopovitz before the sentencing came down, such as no previous criminal history.
Atkinson also went on to say he didn’t believe Prokopovitz was not a threat to the public but had concerns about perjury.
Just before the sentencing was handed down, Atkinson told Prokopovitz “I’m hoping after a while in prison, maybe someday you will decide to give the answers to the children and let them know where Victoria is. In prison, maybe you can think about that.”
If Prokopovitz were given the chance of parole, he would need to wait 20 years before he became eligible. He would be 95 years old.
Victoria Prokopovitz has been missing for eight years -- specifically, 2,953 days, according to Wendy Lemkuil, the Brown County Assistant District Attorney.
After court adjourned Wednesday afternoon, Lemkuil spoke with Action 2 News.
“I think all along we were grateful that the jury was able to see what had occurred in the case and hold the defendant accountable,” said Lemkuil, when asked about her initial reaction. “The judge did what he needed to do with respect to the facts and circumstances in this case, I think all around, the right thing occurred and we are grateful for that.”
Lemkuil said she agrees with Atkinson’s assessment.
“I think at this juncture, when somebody has been lying for so long about the facts and circumstances of their conduct, it wasn’t a big revelation that we actually expected to hear today,” said Lemkuil. “I think for the family, they’d be hopeful as the judge said, hopeful that at some point maybe Prokopovitz would tell the entire truth about what happened, but no, we didn’t expect anything more than what happened today.”
She added that the family has been so grateful to law enforcement and the sergeants for their efforts in the case.
“This was something the family never gave up, trying to find some kind of justice for their mom, and try to seek some kind of answers and for whatever we’ve been able to offer... some bit of peace in respect to that, we are grateful for that, so they (the family) just thanked us all,” said Lemkuil when asked if the family said anything to her.
Victoria’s daughters Stacey Deer and Marsha Loritz addressed the court in a tearful victim impact statement. They begged James Prokopovitz to come forward and tell the truth about what happened to their mother.
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A tearful Stacey Deer said her mother had been abused most of her life from the people she loved, including the man found guilty of killing her. “She was a woman who had a rough life and lived for her kids. She tried to give them the life she didn’t have,” Deer said.
Deer said she wants to know what happened to her mother. Victoria’s body was never found.
“She doesn’t deserve what happened to her. Will we ever know? I’m asking for the truth. I’m asking for justice for my mom Vicki. She doesn’t deserve this kind of ending. I want to give her peace,” said Deer.
Deer went on to say she missed moments with her mom.
“I always told my mom, no matter how old we get, I always need her. I will never get that advice, I will never be able to share moments with her, be able to call her, text her.” She continued, “My heart will forever have a missing piece. I lost my mom. To sit here and listen to him say ‘My stepdaughters put me here,’ how dare you? Ylu still are lying? And this is one reason why we are here.”
Marsha Loritz wondered what happened to the man she once called a father.
“Jim’s our stepdad. He raised me since I was 12. I called him dad. He walked me down the aisle at my wedding,” said Loritz. “I trusted him. Jim’s lack of concern in the search for answers about my mom and his lack of compassion for us is something I still don’t understand .... I just don’t understand his willingness to move on and start a new life.”
Loritz also begged for James to tell them what happened to Victoria and where her body can be found.
“I just want to know where my mom is so we can find peace and healing we’ve been searching for,” Loritz said. “We deserve the truth, and it’s time for Jim to tell us the truth.”
Loritz said she would urge the judge to consider a lighter sentence should James provide the details about Victoria’s disappearance and death.
Both daughters have criticized the defense for focusing on Victoria’s history of mental illness and telling the court that Victoria likely took her own life. The women say their mother was much more than a woman who suffered from depression.
In February, a jury found James Prokopovitz guilty of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide and Perjury. The 1st Degree Intentional Homicide charge comes with a mandatory life sentence.
Victoria Prokopovitz disappeared from the couple’s home in a rural area in the town of Pittsfield on April 25, 2013. Prosecutors believe James disposed of her body in a sludge pond he had access to as part of his job loading paper waste onto trucks for a landfill.
“This case is unique for not having a body, but not unusual,” Assistant District Attorney Wendy Lemkuil said during trial. “Victoria could have never killed herself and covered her up. We would have found her.”
The prosecution called 43 witnesses over seven days of testimony.
The prosecution said the case was about lies and an obsessive relationship James Prokopovitz had with girlfriend Kathy Friday, giving him motive to get rid of his wife.
“The truth is in the lies,” Lemkuil said. “The biodegradable nature of what’s going into these sludge ponds, why they can’t be dredged, and why the substances in there would be such that if someone went in it, it wasn’t coming out.”
“There is more evidence. It’s the fact that Kathy Friday and Jim Prokopovitz took it upon themselves because they knew they had something to hide,” Lemkuil said. “Jim was ready to move on, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Kathy Friday was charged with Perjury but took her life before the case moved forward.
At sentencing, the prosecution team continued to address the court until about 2:15 p.m., asking the judge once more for life in prison without a chance of parole and then the defense addressed the judge.
The defense team spoke about how long the jury deliberated, saying the long hours put in by the jury show it wasn’t an open and shut case. As Action 2 News previously reported, the jury deliberated for nearly 24 hours and reached a verdict on a Saturday evening following a two-week trial.
The defense wrapped up comments after about 10 minutes. During that time, the defense said, “My client doesn’t know where Victoria is,” and, “He’s not a monster.”
RELATED PROKOPOVITZ TRIAL ARTICLES:
- DAY 8 DEFENSE MAKES CLOSING ARGUMENTS https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/26/defense-to-deliver-closing-arguments-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 7 TESTIMONY AND PROSECUTION CLOSING ARGUMENTS: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/25/more-witnesses-to-take-the-stand-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 6 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/24/wednesday-is-day-6-of-testimony-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 5 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/23/testimony-continues-tuesday-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 4 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/22/testimony-continues-monday-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 3 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/17/more-witnesses-to-be-called-on-day-3-of-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 2 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/16/watch-live-more-witness-testimony-set-for-day-2-of-missing-woman-murder-trial/
- DAY 1 TESTIMONY AND OPENING STATEMENTS: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/15/opening-statements-monday-in-brown-county-missing-woman-homicide-trial/
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