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Last suspect sentenced in 2007 Cottonwood County murder

WINDOM -- Despite a request for a lower prison term within the state guidelines, Judge Bruce Gross sentenced Axel Rene Kramer to 288 months, with credit for the 2 ½ years he has spent in jail since the night Alberto Samilpa Jr. was murdered in November 2007. Kramer is the last of several suspects to plead guilty and be sentenced in the murder case.

Defense attorney Troy Timmerman told the judge he was asking for a durational departure of 261 months because Kramer is "not like the other people in the case."

Timmerman said Kramer only pretended to be part of the street gang Latin Kings while exploring his Guatemalan background. As someone who was adopted, the care he received in that country left a mark on Kramer, Timmerman said, and Kramer felt the need to explore his culture and was taken in by the gang lifestyle. Kramer felt truly sorry, the attorney added, for his involvement in what happened that night.

"He said he still has nightmares, and when he closes his eyes he can still see Latin (Gerard Holt) shooting (Samilpa)," Timmerman stated. "... The others recognized (Kramer) was not one of them."

Kramer read a statement to the judge, stating the day of Samilpa's murder was the worst day of his life. Kramer, Holt, Samilpa and several others had been involved in moving two vehicles Holt and some others had stolen from Blue Earth County the day before. Holt had called and asked him Kramer to help, and when Samilpa blew out the clutch on one of the vehicles, Holt allegedly got upset and shot him, then several people lit the Porsche and Camilla's body on fire.

"I stood there frozen, shocked and scared," Kramer stated. "My mind told me to do whatever (Holt) said. I knew he wouldn't have a problem shooting me."

He told the judge he knew he had to go to prison, but said he had lost a friend as well, referring to Samilpa as "an awesome guy."

He was raised on a farm by a loving family, he said while imploring the judge not to let another family lose a son.

"It is true. He is not like the others," Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Al Zdrazil admitted. "But that doesn't mean he deserves a break. If he feels he is not guilty he should withdraw his plea" of guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Kramer's version of events, Zdrazil said, seemed to have changed over time. Holt and Lionel Benavidez, known as Blaze, had to call and ask for Kramer's help that day, because Kramer had the keys to the cars after helping hide the cars the night before.

"Afterward, he went around with Holt trying to hide. He went to his parents' house and stole (money) from them," Zdrazil stated, adding that Kramer's father had called police to request a restraining order because he was afraid of his son.

Samilpa's mother read a prepared statement through an interpreter, referring to Kramer as a coward and an irrational animal who should be given a maximum sentence for his actions.

Her son, she said, was young and full of life. According to court documents, Samilpa had recently pleaded guilty to theft and was also in the midst of a court case in which he was accused of raping a teenaged girl. Because Samilpa was not considered an innocent party at the time of the shooting, his family didn't qualify for victim assistance, he said, then requested that the judge leave the restitution portion of the case open for a time because a young relative of Samilpa may need counseling in the future.

"Has she sought counseling in the past 2½ years?" Gross asked.

"No," Zdrazil replied.

"Request denied," Gross stated.

The judge ordered the Cottonwood County Sheriff's Office to execute the sentence forthwith and deliver him to Minnesota Correctional Facility - St. Cloud.