The West Salem man convicted of killing his wife has the possibility of release from prison but only after serving at least 30 years.
Judge Todd Bjerke sentenced Todd Kendhammer to life in prison with the potential for release on March 9, 2048.
Sentencing for Kendhammer was Friday morning in a La Crosse County courtroom.
He was found guilty of first degree intentional homicide in December 2017 after a nearly two week trial. He was convicted of killing his wife Barbara in September 2016.
The jury in the case ultimately didn't believe the version of events that Kendhammer said happened the morning of September 16. He said that as he and his wife traveled down the road in their car, a pipe fell from a passing truck and smashed through the windshield and struck her in the head. She died the next day in a La Crosse hospital.
Despite a guilty verdict from the jurors in December, close family and friends of Kendhammer have continued to give him their support, maintaining his innocence in Barbara's death throughout the trial. While they did not get the sentence they hoped for, the judge did give them hope that Kendhammer will one day get out of prison.
Several members on both sides of the family made statements during the approximately 90 minute hearing. Some spoke in favor of no parole for Todd, most, including one of his children, supported the possibility of parole.
Only one person spoke up for Barbara.
"We cannot help but wonder: Was she crying out? Was she begging for her life?" asked Gerianne Buchner-Wettstein, Barbara Kendhammer's first cousin.
Buchner-Wettstein spoke on behalf of much of Barbara's extended family, reminding the court of the real victim in this case.
"They say silence is violence," Buchner-Wettstein said. "One cannot blame Barbara for not confiding in anyone about her fear for her safety. As we have sadly seen, who would have believed her?"
Many of Todd Kendhammer's closest family continued to beg for the possibility of parole.
"My dad is an amazing, kind, and caring person, and he has been nothing but kind and caring to anyone he meets," said Jessica Servais, Barbara and Todd Kendhammer's daughter.
"Many of the defendant's I've prosecuted are fine with me," said Tim Gruenke, La Crosse County District Attorney. "Polite and nice and hard-workers and do nice things, but it doesn't take away from what they did."
Those with the prosecution asked Judge Bjerke to make his decision based on evidence.
"Those very scratch marks were her last communication to those of us in this world so that we would seek the truth about her death no matter how painful that truth might be," Buchner-Wettstein said.
However, those supporting Kendhammer continued to rely on his character. Gruenke reacted in disbelief.
"Pardon my language, but to be perfectly frank, they need to get their head out of their ass," he said. "They need to start looking at this through reality and not Mr. Kendhammer's delusional world where pipes will fly, and medias will conspire, and police will frame innocent people."
Kendhammer briefly addressed those the court.
"I would like to say a thank you to my family and friends for the support that they've offered and continue to offer," Kendhammer said. "I appreciate that, and I thank you for the time."
La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke argued that Kendhammer should receive the maximum possible penalty-that Todd remain in prison for the rest of life.
Kendhammer's attorneys countered for the possibility of release.
After considering all parts of the case, Judge Bjerke made his sentencing decision.
"This is not church. I do not believe in mercy in the courtroom," Bjerke said. "I don't believe in being lenient or harsh, as those are things that are not appropriate. What is appropriate is the right sentence for the right person."
Both Judge Bjerke and Buchner-Wettstein agreed that Kendhammer is not beyond redemption. They urge him to tell the truth and take responsibility for his actions.
Kendhammer will be 77 years old at the time of his possible parole.