Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Blood Oath Murder

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PICTURE1At Christensen's trial, which began in late May 2010, additional details about Sherry Harlan's gruesome slaying were revealed. It was publicly revealed that Christensen had removed her sexual organs and her left breast, and had made attempts to pull her heart out of her chest. It was also revealed that he had positioned her head on the front seat of her car and had placed the murder weapon, a knife, next to it before setting the car on fire. Matheson alleged that such actions by the defendant provided insight into his thoughts at the time he killed Sherry, and have some type of meaning in Christensen's mind. Matheson asserted that Christensen, in a jealous rage upon learning of Sherry's continued involvement with the other man, had felt he had little choice about killing Sherry. Matheson also said that the killing was planned.

"Why would he walk from the bedroom to the kitchen to get a knife unless he was planning to kill her?" Matheson asked rhetorically at trial. "There is no reasonable explanation other than that was the plan."

There was little argument from the defense that Christensen had not killed Sherry. However, Christensen's attorney, Kathleen Kyle, said that he killed Sherry in a rage, and that there had been no forethought prior to the killing.

"It was not calculated or precise," Kyle averred.

Kyle also maintained that Christensen's actions after the murder were not planned, but were instead a "sadly pragmatic way for a desperate man to cover up a terrible crime."

Jurors were shown a store surveillance video that depicted Christensen driving Sherry's car and purchasing cleaning items.

On Friday, June 4, 2010, the jury agreed with the prosecution's case and swiftly convicted Christensen of first-degree murder after deliberating about three hours. After the verdict was read, Christensen laughed loudly as he was led out of the courtroom in shackles, and continued laughing, cackling as some witnesses described it, as his guards returned him to jail to await sentencing.

On Friday, June 18, 2010, Christensen was sentenced to 37 years in prison, the judge telling Christensen that he had committed "a barbaric act."

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