UPDATE – Markus Kaarma Speaks, Emotional Testimony from Diren Dede’s Parents [YouTube]
The day after Markus Kaarma was found guilty of deliberate homicide, three people who were silent throughout the trial were finally heard, including Kaarma himself.
After testimony from the Dedes, Markus Kaarma briefly stood and addressed the court, specifically speaking to Celal and Gulcin. He did not testify during the trial, so the only time the court heard from him was in video evidence of his statement to police or audio of his calls with Janelle Pflager after being arrested.
With tears in his eyes, Kaarma said "I never intended to hurt anyone that night," stating that he had been "so scared," and if he could do it all over again he would act very differently. "I am so sorry for your loss," he said. "I am sorry for Diren."
Diren Dede's parents, Celal and Gulcin, were allowed to provide testimony to be used in sentencing this February, not knowing if they will be able to return from Germany at a later date. They were surrounded by people who knew their son in Missoula, including students from Big Sky High School, which Diren attended as an exchange student. Gulcin's testimony proved particularly emotional as many in the audience cried with her. She ended her testimony when she was overcome with emotion.
Celal and Gulcin thanked the people of Missoula for supporting them during a difficult time for their family. They said that Diren had loved Missoula, describing it as 'Heaven' in phone calls. Gulcin said that when she hugged students who knew her son, it was like she could smell him once again.
The Dedes told the court that Diren's birth in September of 1996 was a particularly special time for their family. They already had two daughters, but their culture places particular importance on the birth of a first son. Gulcin described that Diren's sisters had loved their little brother deeply, and had believed that he would become more like an older brother and protector as he became an adult.
Celal said that they did their best to give Diren a good education. Diren had dreamed of coming to the U.S. and learned English. After a lot of hard work, they were able to make his dream come true. Gulcin remembers talking to Diren every day while he was in Missoula and couldn't wait to have him home again. But instead of welcoming him home, she had to kiss his dead body.
Both described Diren as a model son. Gulcin said "I hope God will give people a son like Diren," adding that she is happy that in his brief time on earth Diren was a good boy. Celal stressed that Diren had no bad habits and that if he learned something bad, it happened here in Missoula.
Celal and Gulcin told the court that they feel their lives have been torn apart, that they are not working right now and cannot bring themselves to plan for the future. Their daughters have also been hit hard by news of Dede's death. Celal said that one of them could not bring herself to leave home for college, and both daughters are in therapy. Knowing that the man who took their son's life is in jail for a long time would help set them on a path to heal their broken family, if that can ever be done.
Both parents were surprised that neither Markus nor his mother, who was in court every day, expressed any sorrow or apologized for their loss. Celal said that while both he and Mrs. Kaarma have lost sons, at least she can visit Markus in prison.
Following testimony, the Dedes hugged students from Big Sky High School around the courthouse's Christmas tree, thanked them for their support, and posed for a group photo outside.
Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for February 11, but Judge McLean anticipates that will be moved back. Defense has already filed an appeal of the verdict, citing the court's refusal to change venue for the trial as an unfair advantage for the prosecution.