A Weimar man pleaded no contest Monday morning to two counts of second-degree murder, almost two years to the day since the fatal shooting of his pregnant girlfriend, Grass Valley resident Sarah Lynn Burr.
Lee Konnerth, 35 at the time of the shooting May 15, 2011, also admitted to the use of a firearm in committing the homicides and to being a felon in possession of a firearm, said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman.
By taking a plea agreement, Konnerth will be able to avoid the possibility of being convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, which would have meant life without parole, Tellman said.
Konnerth’s murder trial was set to begin this morning with jury selection.
His likely sentence will be 19 years and eight months to life in prison, Tellman said. He is set for sentencing in Department 4 of the Auburn courthouse July 17.
“He’ll serve 15 years to life” for the first count with no good-conduct credit, Tellman said. He then would serve the remainder of his sentence, four years and eight months, with 85 percent credit.
Konnerth could be eligible for parole in about 17 years.
“The prospect of having (Burr’s) two young children testify and face cross-examination and having to relive a night that ruined both their lives … was definitely a factor” that was taken into consideration with the plea agreement, Tellman said.
Burr’s daughters, ages 6 and 11 at the time, were in the house at the time of the shooting, as was Konnerth’s father, Kraig Konnerth.
“We didn’t want to have to put (the girls) through the environment a murder trial would create,” Tellman added. “The resolution we arrived at, I think, fairly punishes the defendant for what he did.”
at preliminary hearing
Burr had a “volatile” relationship with the father of her unborn child, Konnerth’s father testified during a preliminary hearing into the evidence in April 2012.
The couple had been happy during a dinner of jambalaya on the evening that ended with Burr lying dead from a gunshot wound, said Kraig Konnerth.
Burr, 29, had been staying off and on at the Konnerth home near Weimar; on the night of May 15, 2011, she was there with her daughters.
The longtime Grass Valley resident graduated from Nevada Union in 1999 and had been employed at Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital since 2000.
Burr and Lee Konnerth began dating in July 2010, had gotten engaged and reportedly were talking about getting married in Hawaii.
All three adults had been drinking that night, Kraig Konnerth testified. He said he went downstairs to his bedroom after dinner and fell asleep and was awakened some time later by Burr’s daughters.
He said he found Burr lying face-down on the outside deck and his “distraught” son screaming and crying in the driveway.
Kraig Konnerth initially testified he could not recall what Lee said to him at the time of the shooting; he then said that Lee told him Sarah grabbed or pulled the gun, that he grabbed the gun from her and it “just went off.”
Burr’s mother, Debra Turiello, organized a vigil last year in her daughter’s honor, to send a message to victims of domestic violence to seek help and not wait.
Prior to the vigil, Turiello said that Burr had been planning on moving out of Konnerth’s home, adding that whatever happened that night between the two “got volatile within minutes.”
“There is no book that is written that can tell you how to react when your firstborn child is taken like that,” she said. “I hope this never happens again to anybody … Unfortunately, Sarah has already been taken from us.”
Turiello could not be reached for comment on the plea agreement Monday.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.