99 years for hatchet killer

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A man who hacked another man to death with a hatchet and seriously wounded the man's girlfriend for no apparent reason has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.

"Serving life without parole should be the sentence," Lamar Gathers said Friday at the sentencing hearing.

On Aug. 28, 2001, Gathers, then 19, climbed a ladder into an Eagle River home and hacked Dustin Gard to death with a hatchet. He sliced away at Gard's girlfriend, Bridgette Blezinski, opening her head and severing the bone in her forearm. But she talked him out of killing her and managed to escape.

Both victims were 19 at the time.

Gard and Blezinski had invited Gathers, who was temporarily homeless, to stay with them while he looked for a place of his own. Blezinski worked with Gathers' brother.

But after a week or so, they asked Gathers to leave because he was behaving strangely and stealing small amounts of money.

After listening to angry, hurt relatives describe how Gathers destroyed their lives, Judge Dan Hensley sentenced him to 99 years - 88 for murder, 10 for assault, and one more year because Gathers was on probation for car theft at the time.

Gathers pleaded no contest last year to the charges.

Hensley also gave him 10 years of suspended time and 10 years on probation should he ever get out.

Defense attorney Dan Lowery pleaded for a lesser sentence, citing Gathers' youth and lack of violent history. Gathers' mother abandoned him when he was 4 years old, Lowery said. She was mentally ill and institutionalized. Gathers was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and took Ritalin until he was 17. He went through school in special education classes.

"There's a difference between doing a monstrous thing and being a monster," Lowery said. "There is every reason for this court to believe Lamar Gathers could be rehabilitated."

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