BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man who killed his girlfriend in 2017 and dumped her body down a roadside embankment was sentenced Wednesday to more than 17 years in prison.
Randal Gebo of Barre had pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in the death of 59-year-old Cindy Cook. He was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison, as part of a plea deal, with credit for the two years he's been held. Afterward he must serve 35 years' probation
"What happened tortures me and I'm truly sorry," he said at his sentencing, where Cook's family members spoke of the devastating impacts of her loss.
Cook's body was found in Middlesex on July 12, 2017, by a woman walking her dog. An autopsy determined she had been strangled.
Police were able to trace Gebo, now 63, afterward as he drove around the country in Cook's car. He was arrested in Illinois on July 19, 2017. Police said he had been using Cook's credit cards.
He was also charged with aggravated operation of a vehicle without the owner's consent and animal cruelty involving Cook's dog.
On Wednesday, Cook's daughter Chrissy Searles spoke of the constant ache and emptiness in her heart since her mother's killing. "I will not get over this loss," she said. Searles is about to adopt two little boys, who she said will never know the "loving arms and awesome hugs and kisses" that she vividly remembers of her mother.
Cook's son Matthew Hayes told Gebo that he and his mother forgive him.
A second daughter, Hope Garcia, urged the judge to consider a tougher sentence, saying Gebo will get out of prison as her kids are graduating from college but her own mother won't see them graduate from high school.
"Your honor, he took my rock away," she said of Gebo, her voice wavering with emotion. "My mother deserved more than this. He took the life of a beautiful loving woman who had so much to give back to society."
Gebo was originally charged with first-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty.
But the state "could not with confidence conclude that a reasonable jury would return a unanimous verdict," said Washington County State's attorney Rory Thibeault.
Gebo will be incarcerated until age 77 and with probation will likely be under lifetime supervision, he said.
This story has been corrected to fix spelling of suspect's first name to Randal, instead of Randall.
Information from: WCAX-TV, http://www.wcax.com