“Sunshine Sarah” would have turned 32 last Friday, her father said at the sentencing of her murderer.
“I cried myself to sleep (that) night,” Lynn Donaldson said Thursday morning in Placer County Superior Court before Lee Konnerth was sentenced to 19 years and eight months for the deaths of Sarah Lynn Burr and her unborn daughter, Jordan Ann.
Konnerth, 35 at the time of the shooting at his Weimar home May 15, 2011, had pleaded no contest to the double homicide and had admitted to the use of a firearm in committing the homicides and to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
By taking a plea agreement, he avoided the possibility of being convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, which would have meant life without parole. Konnerth could be eligible for parole in about 17 years.
As Burr’s family and friends filed into the Auburn courtroom Thursday morning, however, Konnerth tried to withdraw that plea, apparently arguing that he had not been adequately represented.
Judge Colleen Nichols denied the motion.
Burr, 29 at the time of her death, had been staying off and on at the Konnerth home. On the night of the shooting, she was there with her two daughters, Jocelyn and Abby. Autopsy results revealed that Burr had been shot in the back.
The longtime Grass Valley resident graduated from Nevada Union in 1999 and had been employed at Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital since 2000.
“You crossed a line that should never have been crossed, a line where apologies and regret have no relevance,” Burr’s sister, Annessa Kendall, told Konnerth at the sentencing.
Burr “was so full of life,” said Donaldson, calling his daughter “smart and sassy.”
“Just look around to some of the people’s lives she has touched,” he added. “With that one bullet, you pierced the hearts of many.”
Donaldson said Burr’s children had talked about what kind of punishment Konnerth deserved, agreeing that he should spend 30 years locked in a cell with pictures of Sarah all over the walls.
Abby Arnberg chose to have her statement read for her, but Jocelyn Burr took the stand and remained composed as she faced her mother’s killer.
“I can sit here and degrade you and tell you you’re a piece of garbage, but I’m not going to,” she said. “I’m here for closure … but that’s not going to happen.”
Jocelyn castigated Konnerth for lying about the circumstances of the shooting and for continuing to lie about it.
“There’s only one thing I want to ask you,” she said. “Was it worth hurting so many lives?”
Konnerth’s voice shook as he apologized for the deaths of Burr and his unborn child, but he also insisted their deaths were accidental.
“The truth is, I did not murder Sarah or her child,” he said. “I do take responsibility … I was drunk and I was stupid and I should never have been handling a firearm.
“I never lied,” Konnerth continued. “I never said it wasn’t my fault … I don’t know what happened. I know it was my fault, and I’m sorry.”
Before Nichols handed down the sentence, she took the time to console Burr’s loved ones and honor the bravery of her two daughters.
“I know it’s really hard to be here,” she said. “I just can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.