BILLINGS, Mont. -- Judge Jessica Fehr sentenced Zachary O'Neill to life in prison for deliberate homicide, attempted deliberate homicide, and sexual intercourse without consent.  This sentencing concludes the cold case of Miranda Fenner, who was killed at a movie store in Laurel, Montana in 1998.

Several of Fenner's friends and family took the stand in court on August 23, 2019.

"I wish that you get the air punched out of your lungs daily.  And when it drops you, and you're left gasping for air, there's nobody there to help you, so you can feel the hollow, suffocating, and debilitating emptiness Miranda's friends and family feel at any given moment," said Jessie Ellison in her testimony.

Fenner's father also took the stand to address O'Neill, "You ruined my life, you ruined my son's life. You took away my son's best friend.  You broke my wife's heart."

A second victim of O'Neill's identified herself and took the stand.  She described in detail her rape and the fight for her life 21 years ago.  The victim says she is still unable to use her hands she used to protect herself from the multiple stabbings to her jaw, neck, and throat.  She remembers the incident as a 'living nightmare', 'overwhelming terror', and 'pure unadulterated evil.'

O'Neill says his new found faith motivated him to confess to his crimes.

"I cant even think about the way I affected your life.  I know I've stolen so much from you.  I can't fathom to what extent whether it be your loss of safety and security, the invasion of your personal boundaries, losing the relationship of your daughter, your granddaughter, your sister, your aunt, and your loved friend," said O'Neill right before sentencing.

Yellowstone County Detective Bancroft says he is both relieved and frustrated in finally solving the murder case of Miranda Fenner.

Recommended for you