By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge sentenced a man to 15 years in prison Monday for fatally beating his autistic half-brother, calling his efforts to hide the body something out of horror fiction.
Jeffrey Vogelsberg pleaded no contest in a deal with prosecutors in September to one count of second-degree reckless homicide in connection with 27-year-old Matthew Graville’s death.
He faced up to 25 years in the state prison system. Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese gave him the maximum 15 years behind bars and 10 years on supervision, saying she wished she could put him away longer.
“There is something broken inside you and I’m not sure it can be fixed,” Genovese told Vogelsberg. “Your actions to cover up the crime are something out of horror fiction, not real life.”
Prosecutors alleged Vogelsberg fatally beat Graville, who suffered from Asberger’s syndrome and depression, in the rental home they shared in Mazomanie during the summer of 2012. The beating was another in a long line of assaults Vogelsberg unleashed on Graville over the years that included water-boarding, pounding him with a board and shooting him with a BB gun, they said.
According to court documents, Vogelsberg left the morning after the beating for Washington state to see his wife graduate from Army boot camp. When the home’s owner, Robert McCumber, called him and said Graville was dead, he told McCumber to put the body in a freezer. The two of them later buried Graville in an unmarked grave on an island in the Wisconsin River days later.
Vogelsberg’s attorney, David Karpe, told the judge that he thought McCumber had more to do with Graville’s death and asked Genovese for eight years. Vogelsberg’s mother, Laura Robar, told the judge that Vogelsberg’s stepfather sexually abused him, causing lasting psychological damage.
“He loved his half-brother very much but he had a hard time showing it,” Robar said.
Vogelsberg, now 30, gave a tearful speech on his own behalf. He called his half-brother “one of a kind” and said he never would have left him if he knew he had been hurt so badly. He said he hoped to find Graville in the afterlife on a trout stream, where they can fish until sunset and he can beg for forgiveness.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser said Vogelsberg didn’t love Graville. He said Vogelsberg told detectives multiple lies about Graville’s whereabouts and built a better grave for his dead dog than he did for his half-brother.
Graville’s mother, Vicki Graville, took the stand and shook a small pouch in the air. She said it contained her son’s ashes.
“Matthew sat in the ground. He sat in a freezer,” she said. “Where’s Matthew’s justice in all this?”
Genovese sentenced McCumber to four years in prison in September for being a party to hiding a corpse.
She gave Vogelsberg’s wife, Shannon Remus, two years of probation in 2013 for obstructing police after prosecutors alleged Vogelsberg showed her Graville’s grave but she denied he ever took her to the spot. The judge also sentenced Robar to a year in jail in 2013 for using Graville’s food stamps after he was dead.