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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published August 01 2012

'I want him to sit a long, long time,' victim's brother says in beheading

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. - Daniel Evan Wacht showed little if any response today as North Dakota District Judge Jim Hovey sentenced him to life in prison without parole for the murder of Kurt Johnson here as 2010 turned to 2011.

Wacht, 31, was immediately driven to Bismarck to be incarcerated in the state prison.

His court-appointed attorney, Steve Mottinger, said he will file an appeal Thursday morning in state district court here.

About 45 people were in the old courtroom here for Wacht’s sentencing, including Johnson's mother and his three siblings, who hugged each other and law enforcement personnel afterward.

"I want him to sit a long, long time," in prison, said Johnson's brother, Kory, about the strictest penalty possible in North Dakota, which has no death penalty. "A death sentence would be the easy way out."

Kurt Johnson, 54, a researcher at NDSU, was last was seen alive about 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 2010 as Wacht helped him into Wacht’s van. Johnson reportedly was very drunk and Wacht offered to drive him home from the Oasis bar.

Friends reported Johnson missing by Jan. 3 and Wacht was questioned and arrested Jan. 5 on an outstanding warrant from California. On a third search of Wacht’s home, Johnson’s severed head was found and Wacht soon was charged with his murder.