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McLaughlin gets consecutive sentences in Rocori shootings
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Rachel Rollins, the sister of shooting victim Aaron Rollins, shows reporters a family photograph taken shortly before her brother was killed in a school shooting at Rocori High School. (MPR photo/Tim Pugmire)
A judge has sentenced Jason McLaughlin to life in prison for a deadly 2003 school shooting in Cold Spring. The 17-year old McLaughlin faces two consecutive prison sentences for first- and second-degree murder. He won't be eligible for parole for more almost 40 years, when he's in his mid-50s. The sentencing hearing turned into an emotional affair, with testimony coming from family members of the victims and also from Jason McLaughlin's family.

St. Cloud, Minn. — In a packed St. Cloud courtroom, Judge Michael Kirk asked Jason McLaughlin if he had anything to say before he was sentenced. The teenager answered with a meek "no."

Judge Kirk then told Jason he devastated the families of Seth Bartell and Aaron Rollins. This summer McLaughlin was found guilty of murdering two Rocori High School students. Kirk also told McLaughlin he'd destroyed his own future, and damaged his community's sense of safety.

Kirk sentenced McLaughlin to life in prison for first-degree murder and a another 12 years in prison for second-degree murder. With the nearly two years he's already been in custody, and time off for good behavior, the teenager won't be eligible for parole until he's over 50 years old.

After the sentencing, Rolly Bartell, the father of shooting victim Seth Bartell, said he was pleased with the sentence. But Bartell said it still doesn't heal the pain of the school shooting.

"The boys will always be gone. The only thing that would actually cure it would be to turn back time, but that won't happen," he said.

During the sentencing family members of the two shooting victims had a chance to read victim impact statements. Kim Bartell, the mother of Seth Bartell, said she thinks of her son when she goes to bed at night, and wakes up crying.

Aaron Rollins' mother, Sherri, said her heart was broken when her son was murdered. And her husband, Tom Rollins, said the murder has taken a terrible toll on his family. He described his son as a boy who lived life to the fullest. Rollins and the other family members all asked Judge Kirk to give McLaughlin the maximum sentence allowed.

Outside the courthouse, Tom Rollins said he hoped the statements made an impression on the judge.

"I hope that it did. I think he's a pretty thorough judge and I think he had his mind made up before he came here today," Rollins said.

Jason McLaughlin's mother also took the witness stand during the sentencing hearing. She cried as she read an apology to the victim's families. Then she went on to say the shooting happened in part because her son was teased at Rocori High School. She also said he's suffering from a mental illness that won't get treated in prison.

During McLaughlin's criminal trial, the judge rejected Jason's mental illness defense. Prosecutors also claimed the shooting happened because Jason was jealous of Seth, not because Jason was teased.

Jason McLaughlin is now incarcerated at a state prison in St. Cloud. The judge said he may be moved to another facility, possible even out of state, at a later date.

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