AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Travis County Judge Julie Kocurek woke up in the hospital, it felt like she was in a dark hole, in the depths of Earth.
As her wounds were soaked and bleached, she became delusional and paranoid. She was in and out of surgery and spent 15 consecutive days under anesthesia.
“The psychological pain and fear were so intense that it hurt physically,” Kocurek said Monday afternoon during the sentencing of Chimene Onyeri. “After I came out of a medically-induced coma, I lost so much muscle mass that I had to learn how to walk again and to regain all of my strength.”
Kocurek was shot in the driveway of her home on Nov. 6, 2015. During a monthlong trial earlier this year, Onyeri admitted to shooting four times into Kocurek’s vehicle’s window, although he claims he never meant to kill or injure anyone.
But, he did. And, now Kocurek and her son, Will, who called 911 the night of the shooting, are still at times leaving in fear.
“I can’t take my eyes off the rearview mirror because I feel like I’m being followed,” Will said.
Onyeri’s sentencing began on Monday and the federal judge is expected to give a sentence on Tuesday.
Unlike his jury trial, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel will determine Onyeri’s sentence.
On Monday, Yeakel asked Onyeri, who faces life in prison with no chance of parole, if he is ready to proceed with sentencing.
Onyeri, wearing a black and gray jumpsuit and shackles, replied, “Yes, sir.”
His attorney is asking for a 30-year sentence, saying Onyeri could be rehabilitated while in prison.
Austin Police Department Detective David Hruzek started Monday’s sentencing talking about two homicides that occurred in Onyeri’s hometown of Houston in 2008 and 2015.
Hruzek, who serves on APD’s homicide and cold case unit, said Onyeri had been charged with murder in both of those cases, but the charges were later dismissed.
The victim in the 2008 homicide was 18-year-old Kenneth Lavel Brooks, who was killed June 14, 2008, in the parking lot of a Houston apartment complex. He received two gunshot wounds to the head, according to an autopsy.
During the initial investigation into that death, Hruzek recapped initial witness statements from the time of the shooting. He said last year he began looking into the cases and re-interviewed several witnesses earlier this year.
He said some of the witnesses told him they were not initially honest with investigators, fearing they would be perceived as “snitches.” Possible motives the witnesses discussed were arguments over a woman, another said Onyeri was robbed of $250, while a third said Onyeri was robbed of about $50, his phone and keys during a “dice game.”
The defense asked Hruzek about the victim’s criminal history, including that he was known to sell drugs in the neighborhood.
Prosecutors didn’t ask Hruzek about the 2015 homicide in Houston, but called three other people to the stand including two FBI agents and a Houston Police Department sergeant.
During 17 days of testimony this spring, more than 60 witnesses testified about events related to Kocurek being shot.
Jurors were also presented with 840 government exhibits, 75 jail phone calls, 300 images, 33 undercover recordings and 36 videos. Onyeri was the only witness to testify on the defense’s behalf.
On April 26, Onyeri was also found guilty of 16 additional charges, including one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft and six counts of witness tampering.
Before Kocurek was shot, Onyeri was wanted in Travis County for violating his probation in connection to a case in Kocurek’s courtroom. Prosecutors say he shot the judge because he thought she was going to revoke his probation and felt as if his racketeering enterprise was threatened.
During testimony for Onyeri’s trial, Kocurek and her family relived the night of the shooting, listening to an emotional 911 call from the judge’s then-15-year-old son, Will, and viewing graphic photos detailing injuries to her face, neck and arms.
“Each surgery reminds me of how much pain Mr. Onyeri has caused to my mind and to my body. While I have mental and physical scars that were caused by Mr. Onyeri, my family has been deeply affected by this as well.”
Kocurek said she’s undergone 30 surgeries since the attack, with another one scheduled for December. Each one reminds her of the mental and physical scars Onyeri caused her. And while those are painful, she said what she regrets the most is the pain it has caused her family.
“They have faced the devastation of almost losing their wife, their mother, their sister, their daughter,” Kocurek said. “They have faced the fear of living in the crossfire.”
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