LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — For 2 minutes and 20 seconds, a courtroom sat in silence, watching a video of toddler Sebastian Greyblood lying on a blanket and looking at a photo album of his mother on vacation.
Off-camera, someone says, “Mommy is so pretty,” as Sebastian grabs at the photos and repeats back, “Mommy so pretty.”
Members of Jeanine Greyblood’s family and others in the Morrison County courtroom watched the video, knowing young Sebastian will grow up learning about his mother from pictures and family memories alone.
Jonathan Greyblood, 31, of Little Falls, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison by a Morrison County judge Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Morrison County Government Center in Little Falls. He was found guilty by a jury in October of second-degree murder without premeditation and manslaughter in the death of his wife, who he strangled and whose body he disposed of over a bridge onto the frozen Swan River.
Before the judge announced the sentence, victim advocates from Hands of Hope Resource Center read impact statements provided by Jeanine's family members. Jonathan Greyblood sat in the courtroom, shackled and wearing a jail-issued jumpsuit.
“I find it so difficult to have my daughter gone,” Diane De Smet, Jeanine’s mother, wrote in her statement. “The man that was supposed to protect her, threw her from the bridge like garbage.”
Jonathan Greyblood reported his 37-year-old wife missing the morning of Feb. 6. He said that the night before, following an argument, she walked to a friend’s house in bitterly cold weather without a coat. His report prompted a missing persons alert from the Little Falls Police Department and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, sending friends and family members searching for the Little Falls woman alongside law enforcement.
The next day, Greyblood acknowledged something bad happened to his Jeanine, according to police. He told police the two got into an argument at a friend’s house, and when they returned home the argument escalated to a point where he put his hands around her throat and squeezed it until she went limp.
"The man that was supposed to protect her, threw her from the bridge like garbage."
— Diane De Smet, mother of Jeanine Greyblood
Greyblood told authorities he panicked, put Jeanine’s body in the passenger seat of their vehicle and drove her to the Swan River Bridge on Great River Road south of Little Falls, where he dropped her body under the bridge.
Jeanine’s brother Nolan Groseclose wrote about how he was unable to tell his sister how much he missed her. He said her death would permanently haunt him, making it difficult for him to get out of bed to go to work.
“It gave me comfort to find her in my dreams,” Groseclose wrote. “… But I can’t say ‘I love you’ to a memory.”
Aryan Larson, Jeanine’s daughter, said she is sad her siblings will have no real mother figure in their lives — no one to congratulate them on tests or make cookies with them, or to watch them cross the stage at graduation or walk down the aisle on their wedding day.
“I know she might not hear this, but, ‘I love you, Mom,’” Larson wrote.
Reading her own statement before the court, Jeanine’s sister Gabriella Bellefeuille spoke about how Jonathan Greyblood “took everything from me” and how his action left “a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.”
“He made a promise to love and protect (Jeanine) when he married her,” said Bellefeuille as she looked directly at the defendant. “He broke that promise.”
"“It gave me comfort to find her in my dreams. … But I can’t say, ‘I love you,’ to a memory."
— Nolan Groseclose, brother of Jeanine Greyblood
After the impact statements were presented to the court, the defense presented its arguments for a downward durational departure — a motion that calls for the length of the sentence to vary from the presumptive sentence called for by the Minnesota sentencing guidelines — to have the court impose a sentence of six years and three months. The sentencing guidelines called for a sentence length of 10-15 years.
Jonathan Greyblood’s attorney, Susan Gaertner, argued evidence and circumstances supported at least two mitigating factors justifying a downward durational departure. Gaertner argued “the victim was an aggressor in the incident” and that “other substantial grounds exist that tend to excuse or mitigate the offender’s culpability, although not amounting to a defense.”
As part of Greyblood’s defense at trial, he claimed he’d been a victim of verbal and physical abuse perpetrated by his wife over the course of years. As Gaertner argued for a lighter sentence for her client, she presented similar cases in which victims of domestic violence received lighter sentences. Gaertner said Jonathan Greyblood’s case differed only in the fact that this case “defies gender stereotypes.”
"I admire their strength and resolve for getting through it. … She is not here to defend herself."
— Assistant Minnesota Attorney General John Gross
For the prosecution, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General John Gross argued Jeanine Greyblood was not an aggressor that night as shown by both the evidence and the rejection of those claims made by Jonathan Greyblood by the jury, along with lack of corroboration by any other witnesses. Gross said being angry is not the same as being an aggressor.
Gross said scratches found on Jonathan Greyblood were defensive and no physical evidence was found corroborating the claim Jeanine punched him. He said the defendant smeared the victim at trial and continued to smear her in his request for a lighter sentence, something Jeanine’s family was forced to endure.
“I admire their strength and resolve for getting through it,” Gross said. “ … She is not here to defend herself.”
After listening to arguments from both sides, Judge Antoinette Wetzel said Jonathan Greyblood lacked credibility and his claims were controverted by other witness testimony, along with the evidence presented at trial. Wetzel rejected the factors presented by defense, saying there was nothing to establish grounds for a downward departure. The motion was rejected in full.
Gross asked for the full weight of evidence brought forth in trial to be considered in the sentencing of Jonathan Greyblood, saying he made no attempt to get help and drove miles away to dump the body of Jeanine Greyblood and he abused and misdirected vital community resources to find his wife. Gross said Jonathan Greyblood’s actions after his wife’s death spoke to his guilt, and it took hours to remove Jeanine Greyblood’s discarded body from the ice she fused to and a full day for her to thaw for autopsy.
Before being sentenced, Greyblood gave a statement to those in the court.
“I apologize to everyone for what happened,” he said. “I hope everybody finds peace. Thank you.”
Greyblood was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which 10 years will be served in custody with five years of supervised release. A total of 304 days of time served was credited toward his sentence. Restitution claims may be made by victims for 45 days from the sentencing date. Following sentencing, the defendant was led away by a sheriff’s deputy to return to jail.
“My siblings and I should still have our mother,” wrote Alosha Chieppa-Mercado, Jeanine’s daughter. “Instead, I get an urn of ashes and my family drifts apart.”