Triggerman in Ernst killing to be resentenced Thursday
Date posted: January 15, 2014
SHERIDAN — A man convicted of murdering Sheridan businessman Robert Ernst will be resentenced in Sheridan’s 4th Judicial District Court Thursday.
Dharminder Vir Sen, the triggerman in the 2009 home invasion killing, was 15 years old when he murdered Ernst.
He was originally sentenced to serve life without parole for his first-degree murder conviction, but a ruling handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 declared that a mandatory sentence of life without parole is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.
In addition, the Wyoming Legislature in 2013 passed new legislation mandating that any juvenile sentenced to life in prison be eligible for parole after 25 years.
Sen, along with two accomplices, had planned to steal from unlocked houses at random in order to accumulate enough money to travel to Billings. The trio broke into the Ernst home through a window and woke the couple. When met with resistance from Ernst, Sen shot him with a handgun he had stolen from a vehicle earlier that week.
Legal proceedings that ensued resulted in the conviction of Sen for first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to life without parole for the murder and an additional 20-25 years each for the other two convictions.
In light of the 2012 Supreme Court ruling, Sheridan’s 4th Judicial District Court was tasked with resentencing Sen and co-conspirator Wyatt Bear Cloud. The third accomplice, Dennis Poitra Jr., was 18 at the time of the crime and is not eligible to have his life sentence reconsidered.
Bear Cloud was resentenced in August. He will serve 20-25 years for conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. That sentence will be served concurrent to, or at the same time as, the murder sentence.
Bear Cloud was also originally sentenced to 20-25 years for aggravated burglary for his involvement in the theft of the murder weapon from a vehicle about a week before Ernst’s death. That sentence will be served consecutively to the other two, and Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle said he believes that sentence must be completed first. Then the clock would begin for the 25-year minimum before parole could be considered.
The possible outcome of tomorrow’s resentencing hearing for Sen will likely be similar. After consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors, Judge John G. Fenn will be required to assign a new sentence. The maximum possible sentence for Sen will entail the possibility of parole after 25 years on the murder charge, though he may have to serve consecutive terms for his other convictions.
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