The saga of Mary K. Janka entered a new phase on Friday, Sept. 20, when Judge William Andrew Sharp sentenced Janka to 10 years in prison and four years of supervision for shooting at her lover’s wife last fall.
Janka is the 36-year-old South Milwaukee woman convicted in June of two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety as part of a plea agreement in a case involving shooting nine times at Jane Beutin, the wife of Janka’s lover, Tad Beutin.
Sharp noted at the sentencing hearing held in Crawford County Circuit Court last Friday that had Janka gone to trial upon the original charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, she likely would have been convicted and could have faced up to 60 years in prison. In light of mitigating factors, like having no prior criminal record, having support from family and friends, ongoing counseling, past abuse and depression, Sharp felt the reduction in charges, with a maximum of 15 years incarceration, was reasonable. The judge also agreed with Crawford County District Attorney Tim Baxter’s sentencing requests that Janka be given four years incarceration and two years extended supervision for the first charge and six years incarceration with two years of extended supervision on the second charge, to be served consecutively.
“It would have been less egregious, in some way, if you had shot at Mr. Beutin instead of Mrs. Beutin, the innocent party in this,” Sharp told Janka.
Sharp went on to say that the situation Janka had found herself in was “absolutely the cliché situation” of being promised marriage by a married man who then never delivered. However, the judge noted that situation did not generally lead to the mistress shooting at the wife.
“It’s hard for the court to see this as anything other than someone shooting at someone else hoping to harm them or kill them,” Sharp said.
Janka took the sentence with apparent calm, in sharp contrast to other moments in the hearing, where she became agitated and emotional.
Janka began her court appearance calmly enough. She had entered the courtroom two hours earlier, somber and with her head bent. She was not looking around the courtroom as the bailiff led her to a seat in the jury box to await the beginning of proceedings, when she would join her lawyer Amanda Tisdale at the defense table.
Once Janka was seated, she began to look around. Seeing friends and family, she broke into large smiles. At one point, she mouthed, “I’m okay” to her mother. She also made a small wave of her hand in greeting, which was limited by the cuffs that manacled her wrists to a belt worn over the waist of her jail-issued orange jumpsuit.
Once Janka joined her lawyer, the victim, Jane Beutin was asked to give her statement.
Beutin, a petite woman, was visibly shaking as she came to sit with the district attorney to read her statement. It detailed a life that had changed for the worse following the shooting. Beutin described the ongoing nightmares and acute anxiety she suffers from since the event. She noted that she now constantly questioned herself and found it difficult to make decisions. She explained that her ability to trust herself and others was damaged by the armed attack.
“Kathy, you negatively changed my life,” Beutin read. “Through your actions, you gave me fears I never had before. Because of you, I’ve changed my daily routines. I don’t feel safe in my own home.”
Looking away from her paper and toward Janka, Beutin left her written statement to ask Janka why she had stolen Beutin’s own gun from her home and driven all the way from Milwaukee to shoot at her.
“I don’t know if I will ever feel safe again,” Beutin said She added that while she might be able to forgive Janka someday, she still feared Janka would re-enter her life, shooting again.
Both of Janka’s parents spoke as character witnesses for their daughter.
Her mother Candice Lynn Janka, crying, described her daughter as a giving, considerate, kind woman needed by her children, saying that Janka had been working on herself while in jail and had “learned to control her feelings”.
David Janka, her father, struggled to speak, overcome with emotion. Speaking without a written statement, he described a scene from a favorite movie, ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ that takes place in a prison graveyard. He described a moment he had, when he had realized that that could end up being his daughter’s fate. Overwhelmed, he stopped speaking for a long moment.
“Help her, please,” he finally choked out.
A third character witness for Janka was Paul Krepel, the clinical social worker and family therapist that Janka had seen for counseling since 2002.
Krepel described Janka as suffering from mild to moderate episodes of a major depressive disorder. He also said that Janka was strongly spiritual, yet self-negating, placing her relationships with men ahead of herself, viewing herself as unloved and unlovable.
“I watched her struggle for three-and-a-half years,” Krepel said of her affair with Tad Beutin. “She even brought him in a couple of times.”
Krepel went on to say that he had been shocked by the shooting.
“It didn’t fit with any previous pattern of behavior,” the therapist said.
Since Janka’s arrest, Krepel has spoken with her once a week and said he saw a transformation in her attitude.
“She was grateful God had given her an opportunity to deal with her defects,” Krepel said. He added that Janka was learning acceptance of others and of her own actions and consequences.
Baxter also referenced Janka’s changes since her arrest 352 days earlier when he made his case for sentencing.
“While the defendant is changed, at peace, thankful even, what about the victim?” Baxter asked. “I don’t know if she’ll ever be (at peace). She doesn’t know that.”
Baxter went on to describe Janka speaking at the pre-sentencing investigation, describing her as crying with each of the multiple visits involved.
“She only cried when talking about her family or her father,” Baxter noted. The district attorney said that Janka did not cry when describing shooting at Beutin.
Baxter went on to point out that Janka had said she was not trying to kill Beutin, but was only trying to scare her.
“You can argue that’s a rational decision - shooting to scare,” Baxter said, but Janka also said she has “snapped” and had described everything as “surreal.”
Baxter then went on to describe Janka chasing Beutin across a field, shooting four times at Beutin, before the victim was able get into a bathroom located in one of the sheds on the property, shutting and locking the door, then standing to one side. Janka fired five more rounds through the bathroom door. All nine shots missed Beutin.
Baxter went on to further point out that Janka still refused to say the gun she used was Beutin’s.
Recognizing Janka’s emotional issues and the remorse she expressed, Baxter went on to say the he felt the sentencing request for a total of 10 years in prison and two years of supervision upon release plus restitution, and counting the 350 days already served, would address all the sentencing objectives, including that of pure punishment.
Janka’s lawyer, Amanda Tisdale, asked for a much lower sentence – 18 months in prison with four years of supervision for both charges, to be served concurrently and counting the 350 days Janka had already served.
“Something insider her broke,” Tisdale said. “Her intentions were to kill herself in front of Tad Beutin.”
Tisdale said Janka was unaware Beutin’s wife was with him at their property in rural Crawford County, when she went there. Tisdale also claimed that Janka wanted no contact with either of the Beutins again.
“Her actions that day were outside her character,’ Tisdale argued.
Tisdale went on to describe the chase of Jane Beutin by Janka. The attorney stressed that it was not a field the defendant was running through, but rather a backyard.
“There needs to be some consequences, but some consequences shouldn’t mean she should spend the next ten years in prison for an incident where no one was hurt,” Tisdale continued.
Tisdale described Janka’s life as difficult with many trying personal circumstances pushing her to drive to the Beutin’s property with the intent to commit suicide, not homicide.
“If Mrs. Beutin had not been there, her (Janka’s) children would be without a mother,” Tisdale said. “Her parents would be burying a daughter.”
Janka was the last to speak before the judge passed sentence.
“There is not a word in the English language that can describe the deep regret and anguish I feel,” Janka began calmly. She went on to describe the effect of her acts upon her son and daughter, her parents who must now raise her children, and a brother who will no longer speak to her.
Janka described her relationship with Tad Beutin, a man who had dated her for three months before telling her he was married, by which time she was already in love with him. Janka said Tad promised often to leave his wife and discouraged her from seeing other men.
“I couldn’t deal with the loss of the man I had loved for three years,” Janka said.
“I see what happened that day as a desperate plea for help,” she continued.
Janka described Jane Beutin as her unlikely angel, saying she would likely be burning in hell if not for her being with her husband that day.
“I behaved as if possessed by the devil himself,” Janka said, her voice rising and beginning to weep. “I know I deserve to be punished for my crime, but my family needs me.”
Janka described Jane Beutin several times during her statement as an angel sent by God for her salvation, to prevent her from committing suicide.
Janka was allowed to interact with family and friends from her seat next to her attorney while the judge recessed before handing her sentence. She held her son, weeping and speaking to him, offering him reassurances.
Immediately after her son returned to his seat with his grandparents, a friend approached and introduced his companion to Janka, who smiled and exchanged pleasantries with little visual evidence of the emotion displayed moments before.
By the time the judge returned and passed his sentence, Janka had assumed a calm demeanor. She maintained that demeanor until her final parting from her family in the courthouse hallway. The moment in the hallway was teary, but much more sedate than in the courtroom.