It was an emotional day in a Delaware County courtroom, as the daughter of an elderly couple killed in their home just before Mothers Day of 2012 spoke out.
Judge Monica Ackley sentenced 21-year-old Brandon Ahlers to 18 years behind bars, which was the maximum sentence for the charges he faced. That stemmed from his role in the alleged double homicide of Manchester couple Rick and Janet Sweet in May of 2012. The murders are still "alleged" since the young man accused of actually committing them, the couple's grandson Isaiah Sweet, has not yet been tried.
Delaware County prosecutor John Bernau originally charged Ahlers with two counts of aiding and abetting in first degree murder, but in a plea deal this summer, Ahlers agreed to testify against Sweet in exchange for lesser charges. Those include possession of an offensive weapon, third-degree burglary and accessory after the fact to murder in the first degree.
The maximum amount of incarceration he could receive on all those charges was 18 years, and that's what Ackley gave him.
The family of Rick and Janet Sweet showed up for the sentencing. They were the ones who discovered the Sweets' bodies on Mothers Day 2012.
Janet Sweet's daughter and Rick Sweet's stepdaughter, Angie Camlin, read for the court a victim impact statement she had written.
"There are before and after the murders occurrences that chill me to the bone, and these are just of what I know," Camlin wrote. "No one will ever know how cold hearted Brandon is or what he is capable of and I pray we don't have to find out. I want him in jail for as long as you can make that happen."
She went on to describe how Brandon broke into the Sweets' Manchester home after their alleged murders to steal Rick Sweet's truck. In order to do that, he saw and walked past the couple's bodies.
"By not calling anyone to come has caused our entire family the most unspeakable pain and it would have saved my daughter her entire lifetime of terrible nightmares and flashbacks of what she saw that day, Sunday, Mothers Day," Camlin wrote. "He didn't even think or even care about anyone else but himself."
Judge Ackley also expressed horror and shock that Ahlers saw the dead bodies and did nothing but proceed to attempt stealing the vehicle, calling it "absolutely appalling." During the sentencing, Ackley looked Ahlers right in the eyes and told him, "I think that's the coldest thing I ever heard in my life."
Along with Camlin were several other family members, including her daughter, who Camlin said in her impact statement was the person who first discovered the Sweets' bodies in their home on Mothers Day.
"To this day and probably forever she can tell you exactly what they were wearing and how they were positioned," Camlin wrote. "It's the most horrible thing for anyone to witness and especially for the people who you love...She has had a lot of counseling and this has caused a lot of pain and suffering for our entire family."
Ahlers submitted a letter to the judge, stating his grandmother was sick and he'd like to see her again, along with a request for a shorter sentence because he has two young boys.
Judge Ackley gave him the full sentence.
The trial for Isaiah Sweet, the man accused of killing his grandparents, is set for mid-October. Judge Thomas Bitter approved Sweet's attorney's motion for change-of-venue. The jury trial will take place at the Dubuque County Courthouse.
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