'It's never OK to murder, even if you're doing it to help'
Husband sentenced to 25 years in death of wife
December 22, 2023
Given the choice between watching his wife continue to suffer or ending her life, Raymond Julian told the courtroom that he chose to honor her request to die. He would do it again, given the same circumstances, the 67-year-old man stated.
Emotions ran high during the sentencing hearing Monday, Dec. 18, held at the Carlton County Courthouse two years to the month after Tracy Julian's death.
As with the murder that led to Raymond Julian's arrest, there was no easy choice, said Sixth District Judge Amy Lukasavitz, who said she'd been "haunted" by the case since Raymond Julian pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, with intent, not premeditated in September.
"I believe you loved your wife and you did this out of love," Lukasavitz told Julian before announcing her sentencing decision.
But she died at his hand, Judge Lukasavitz told the defendant, who shot his wife two times in the head with a shotgun, the second time because he feared she might somehow still be suffering.
"It's never OK to murder, even if you're doing it to help," Lukasavitz said. "Murder should never be considered an alternative."
Judge Lukasavitz sentenced Julian to the presumptive guideline sentence of 25 ½ years (306 months) in prison. He will be credited for 738 days served since he was arrested. He must serve at least two-thirds of the sentence.
Raymond Julian was arrested after Carlton County 911 dispatch received a call at 2:35 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, requesting a welfare check for the couple, who lived at 3665 Heiskari Road in Kalevala Township, not far from the city of Kettle River.
The caller said they had received an email from Raymond, stating that he planned to kill his wife. When the first deputy arrived on scene, he walked up the driveway and was greeted by Raymond Julian, who initially told him his wife was ill and in bed, but when pressed, stated he had killed her. According to the defense, when law enforcement arrived he was holding packages, keepsakes he intended to mail to others, prior to taking his own life.
Unlikely to reoffend
The entire first hour of the hearing Monday was taken up with testimony from Dr. Sara Vaccarella, a clinical forensic psychologist with Kartta Group in Duluth. Hired by Julian's defense attorneys, Vaccarella used court documents, numerous psychological tests, and interviews with Julian as well as his sister to create a psychological assessment. She diagnosed him with persistent depressive disorder, uncomplicated bereavement and personality disorder, but essentially summarized him as someone who struggles to connect with people emotionally, but who would do anything for someone he really cared about.
"There's nothing in thousands of pages ... that indicated Raymond Julian is not truthful or lacks empathy for others," she said. "If anything, he puts others' interests above his own, from what I gathered."
Raymond and Tracy Julian's relationship was consistent with the profile of mercy killings, which tend to happen in married couples where the man is older than the woman and the woman has significant health problems, Vaccarella said.
"There is often some kind of murder-suicide pact in place," Vaccarella said.
Vaccarella rated Raymond Julian's risk of offending again as low. Only a limited number of people - maybe his sister and one or two close friends - would fall into that potential victim pool, she said. However, his sister, Cathy, was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system.
Cathy Julian addressed the court via Zoom, stating that she doesn't consider herself a potential victim, before talking about past visits with Tracy and Raymond.
"I know he loved his wife very much," she said. "It would have taken great love to prompt him to act as he did."
It was Tracy's misfortune, Cathy Julian asserted, that she lived in "a state that doesn't have the option of assisted suicide like where I live in Washington," she said, adding that she is glad she will have the choice "to decide I've had enough." A bill that would have allowed adults with less than six months to live to get a prescription from their doctor to help them end their life failed to get a hearing in the most recent state legislative session.
Cathy asked that the court keep Raymond out of prison, because society will be better "with him being in it."
"He brings the best he has to every situation he's in," she said.
Five people read or submitted victim statements to the court, all of them struggling to cope with Tracy's death, all of them asking for the maximum sentence for Raymond Julian, who was also described as controlling and/or volatile.
Tracy Julian's oldest granddaughter cried as she talked about how her two sons and unborn child will never get to know the loving smart lady that she got to know as a child through walks around the farm, baking, games and long talks.
Tracy's lifelong friend, Lauri Amendola, remembered Tracy as someone whose "love of life was infectious," recalling adventures skipping school, dreaming of an alpaca farm, going back to school as nontraditional students.
"Life changed after she married Ray," Amendola said, stating that she felt an "evil vile" vibe from him which caused her anxiety. They sold their Park Point home and moved to the farm near Kettle River. Tracy quit communicating on social media and eventually the phones were shut off. Amendola quit visiting because of how Raymond made her feel.
Another granddaughter recalled times together.
"Looking back, I'd do anything to have more time with her," she said.
Julian was the final person to address the courtroom before Lukasavitz ordered a break in the proceedings, so she could make her final decision.
He told how the couple met in calculus class, both of them older students, and started studying together. Eventually, they started dating, helping one another through family deaths and struggles and deciding they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They bought their farm, then Raymond had a heart attack. Tracy helped him recover. Then her health began to fail. He had to pause in his recounting of her illness and their lives together more than once, overcome with emotion. Tracy started having breathing problems about a year before her death. They agreed that she would have a recommended heart valve replacement.
"I promised her she'd be able to end her life anytime she wished [if there was] no improvement after surgery," Raymond Julian said.
There was no improvement and no treatment for her COPD or systemic rheumatoid syndrome. They began researching palliative options and hospice care. Tracy tried to end her life with a handgun three different times, he said. In the end, they decided she would take increasing doses of medicine and he was to shoot her when she became unconscious. She never lost consciousness, but told him she wanted him to end her life.
The medical crisis left them with no good choices, he told the court.
"I loved her. That is what motivated me: thinking that I could end her suffering," Julian said.
Assistant Carlton County attorney Jeffrey Boucher argued for a longer-than-normal sentence of 360 months, or 30 years.
"I'm certain many people in the courtroom today have felt the pain and the desperation of watching a loved one's health deteriorate," Boucher said. "... It is an unfortunately universal human experience. Sickness and death is something we all must face, but in response to this universal experience, only Raymond Julian picked up a shotgun."
Julian's defense attorney, Andrew Poole, asked for a sentence of 120 months, or 10 years, to be stayed with conditions.
Following a 40-minute recess, Judge Lukasavitz returned to the third-floor courtroom with her decision. Lukasavitz, who was an actor before going to law school, quoted Portia in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice," regarding the power of mercy.
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
"Neither decision feels like justice, neither feels like mercy," Judge Lukasavitz said.
She could choose to depart from sentencing guidelines, she said, questioning whether that would be justice or mercy.
She noted that Julian had been very consistent throughout the legal process about why he did what he did, and the fact that he would choose to do the same again if the same facts were present. There were many arguments about what would have happened if assisted suicide were legal in Minnesota, but it's not.
"Regardless, this is still murder. I think we all agree [on that]. You, as well, Mr. Julian," the judge said.
Would he have modified his actions if Minnesota allowed assisted suicide?
"I'm not allowed to pontificate on 'what if?'" Lukasavitz said.
There was a gasp in the courtroom when she sentenced Julian to 306 months, followed by sobs from some of Tracy's family members.
The judge assured the family that Tracy Julian was "never not a priority" for her. She told Raymond Julian she knew Tracy was also a priority for him, and that he loved her.
"Good luck to you, Mr. Julian," she said in closing.
Julian, with his back to the courtroom, thanked the judge, who did not linger.