CAMP VERDE - Hope Marie Olszewski was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of probation Monday by Judge Joseph C. Butner at Yavapai Superior Court in Camp Verde for her role in a home invasion that took the life of Gus Terrell Finklea.
Both Finklea's family and Olszewski's family were present in court.
Dec.4, 2015, police were dispatched to a home invasion robbery on South 2nd Street in Cottonwood. The three other suspects involved in the incident - Karrie Ann Funkhouser, 22; Jermaine Shields, 21; and Calvin Clark, 28 - are still charged for the death of 27-year-old Finklea. The suspects - all from the Phoenix area - came to Cottonwood in an attempt to recover Clark's stolen property from alleged the victim. Finklea, who came along to assist in retrieving the property - was shot during the altercation, according to the Sentencing and Mitigation Memorandum.
According to police reports, 21-year-old Olszewski was present on scene with Finklea when Sergeant Murie arrived at the victim's residence. The other three defendants fled the scene in a red SUV. She approached Sergeant Murie seeking help for Finklea.
Olszewski took a plea deal and admitted guilt to conspiracy to commit burglary in the first degree, two counts of aggravated assault, and possession of drug paraphernalia. As part of her plea deal, she will be testifying against her codefendants as a witness for the State in the event their cases go to trial, according to court documents, which puts her life at risk.
Olszewski's defense attorney Michael Shaw said that her substance abuse addition and poor choice of friends resulted in her involvement in the attempt to recover the stolen property.
Her sentencing was based on her young age, absence of prior felony criminal history, and concern for the death of her friend Finklea.
According to a court document, Olszewski's conduct can be distinguished from that of her codefendants. It was stated that she was pawn used by codefendant Clark to locate the victim. She was coerced by Clark and was afraid of him, stated the memorandum submitted by Shaw. Olszewski never brandished a weapon, discussed the plan, purchased a weapon, rushed the victim, engaged any other person physically, drove the vehicle, pushed her way into the house, pulled a trigger, attacked any person, or took any property - actions all done by other persons, according to a court document.
Olszewski never entered the victim's residence with the intention of harming any person, according to the memorandum, but did go into that residence after everyone else left because she heard her friend had been shot. She was the only person who showed a care or concern for Finklea over her concern for herself, and tried to render aid to him, stated the court document. The memorandum suggested that the court should consider that her most onerous and painful punishment in this case by far is the loss of her friend. Shaw said Olszewski has been grieving for him while in jail for the last nine months.
Both Shaw and Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Michael Morrison agreed on the sentencing due to the rare circumstances involving Olszewski in the incident. Shaw expanded on her mental health and drug issues, and her cooperation with the investigation.
Morrison said at first blush, the plea agreement "looks almost ludicrous." He then explained that by his assessment and by the assessment of authorities - and because she was the only one who stayed at the scene to render aid to her friend - Shaw thought that Olszewski's concern was not for herself, but for Finklea.
During sentencing, an emotional Olszewski thanked Judge Butner for processing her case, and for being honest and fair. She said she had months to reflect, and took responsibility for her role. Olszewski said she will always carry the death of her friend with her, and "will honor Gus." She apologized to her family and everyone else involved.
Finklea's father walked up to the podium and thanked Judge Butner for allowing his family to speak on behalf of their son. He told Olszewski "the best thing you can do is to get your life together."
Looking at Olszewski, he said, "As a Christian - I forgive you."
He said that no one is perfect, and that his son was no saint, but that he was getting his life together at the time. Finklea's father told Olszewski that he was not upset with her, and that his son could be sitting where she is sitting. He said that she will never get over the loss of Finklea, just as he won't as a parent.
"Parents are not supposed to bury their children," he said.
Finklea's mother spoke next, holding a picture of her son that was immediately admitted into evidence.
Clearly shaken, she said, "My husband is stronger than I am."
She said Finklea was her first born, and almost lost him at birth. She said he wasn't perfect, but was trying.
She paused to compose herself.
"He didn't deserve this," said Finklea's mother.
"No mother should bury their child," she said imploringly. Finding out about his death on social media was the worst day of her life, she said.
Finklea's mother again stated that she wasn't as strong as her husband, and that she isn't able to forgive right now. But as a Christian, she said, she will have to. Finklea's mother told Olszewski that she prays her parents hug her, because she can't hug her son. She told Olszewski to get herself together so her parents don't have to go through what she is going through. She repeated with emotion that no mother should have to bury their child.
Judge Butner said he was moved by Finklea's parents' words, and thanked them for speaking. He then spoke about the reasons for Olszewski's sentence.
Judge Butner said that she accepted responsivity without realizing the consequences. She has a psychological history and drug issues - which doesn't excuse her but explains her involvement and sentencing. Judge Butner said this was an appropriate plea.
Her sentence includes a slightly mitigated three year prison sentence, five years of probation, and restitution to the victims.
Morrison said that the Finkleas thank Olszewski for tending to their son during his final moments.
The other suspects involved in the incident are scheduled to be back in court.
Funkhouser is scheduled for a pretrial conference Oct. 17, Shields is scheduled for a pretrial conference Oct. 25, and Clark has a case management hearing scheduled for Nov.7.