LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Not guilty.
That was the verdict for Erik Sackett in his 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide trial in a La Crosse County courtroom in the death in June 2018 of Erin Somvilai.
Jurors went back to select a jury foreman and begin the deliberation process around 11:15 a.m. Thursday morning following closing arguments.
They returned a verdict around 4:25 p.m.
The verdict was read shortly after 5 p.m. Sackett blinked several times and slowly lowered his head as the not guilty verdict was said aloud in court. He wiped back tears moments later.
He hugged several family members including his father before being led back to jail. He is still facing additional jail time due to violations of a previous conviction.
Jurors heard about a week and a half's worth of testimony from and arguments from attorneys before they returned their verdict.
Sackett has remained jailed since 2018 in Somvilai's death. Her body was found in Runge Hollow Lake in Vernon County near where Sackett owned a cabin.
Police and prosecutors contended that he never told police he owned a cabin near where Somvilai was found was one of the elements in the case against him.
His attorneys, however, were able to convince jurors that either Somvilai killed herself or that another person committed the crime. He also told jurors when asked by his attorney Christopher Zachar, "Did you kill Erin Somvilai?, Erik Sackett said, "No, I did not."
Sackett admitted later when questioned by La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke, after being caught lying about what he'd said to investigators, “I don't tell the truth about everything...that doesn't make me a murderer.”
"Obviously the family is disappointed, but they understand how the process works," said La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke when asked for his reaction to the verdict. We respect the jury's verdict. We thought it was a tough case but one worth putting in front of a jury."
He commended the efforts by police in gathering evidence for the case. "I think the police did an extraordinary amount of work on the case. I know they put their hearts and souls into it. No investigation is perfect, but I don't think that they could be expected to do any better in this case."
Sackett's attorney Christopher Zachar spoke briefly following the verdict about the police investigation in the case. "I believe the police officers, in this case, are good people, hardworking professionals, their intentions were honest, they just made a human assumption."
During the trial, Zachar pointed out to jurors that police failed to investigate other possible suspects or evidence such as surveillance video that may have exonerated his client.
Earlier, he spoke about the verdict. "We're relieved. We're glad that it's over and that the jury made the right decision today."
Zachar said the family is focused on Erik. "They're relieved that eventually going to get Erik back.
As he left the courthouse, Erik Sackett's father was asked for his reaction to the decision. He simply said, "It's over and I've got my son back."