Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, June 12, 2000

Ecklund sentenced to 36 years in prison

By Gail Lipe

Heather Lynn Ecklund, 20, was sentenced to 36 years in prison on Friday for her part in the murder of Randy Pool last July. She previously pleaded guilty to second degree intentional murder.

Judge Robert Carolan said it would be a mistake to conclude that she did not know what was happening and that she did not participate in the murder of Pool.

Pool's body was found in a duffel bag in the Clearwater River on July 28, 1999. He had been held against his will in his home and repeatedly beaten and tortured for approximately three days before his death.

"To his family, there is nothing I can adequately say to bring sense to this act," said Carolan. He acknowledged the loss and told the family that the important thing is that Pool's spirit lives within the family and friends. That is his legacy.

Orda Pool, Pool's mother, told Ecklund she could not help but have sympathy for her parents. "It has to be hard knowing you raised a daughter who could murder someone," she said.

She also told her that no child needs a mother who is a murderer and that her son is probably better off not having Ecklund around while he is growing up.

"May God forgive you," she said. "I know I cannot. My family hurts twice, once for themselves and once for their mother."

She told the court that Pool was not a bad person and did not deserve to die.

John Kearny, assistant McLeod County attorney, told the court that Ecklund was there at the beginning of Pool's torture, and she was there at the end of his life. He said she participated in everything in between and had ample opportunity to intervene.

"When she became one of four people to beat, torture and murder, she became responsible for Pool's death," Kearny said. He requested Ecklund be sentenced to the full 36 years in prison.

"When court comes to a situation like this, no one wants to be here," Carolan said.

He went on to say it would be a mistake for anyone to conclude that Pool being beaten and tortured was anything but cold-blooded murder.

He told Ecklund that her parents also are victims in the situation and that her son, Austin, would be an adult by the time she is out of prison.

"This is the first day of the rest of your life," he said. "I hope you can redevelop your spirit."

He told her she still has a family who loves her and she has a responsibility to them to respond to the love and support they have shown her.

Ecklund was sentenced to 36 years in prison. Ecklund also is required to pay an assessment of $50, and will be responsible for the restitution amount, along with the other defendants, when the amount is determined.

The last defendant, Isaac Leroy Engstrom, 22, will be sentenced on June 9. Toby Earl Johnson, 18, was sentenced in May to life in prison and Shawn Allen McCollum, 26, was sentenced in April to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tanya Ann Caldwell, 24, and Richard Patrick Ligenza, 21, pleaded guilty to kidnapping Pool. Caldwell was sentenced to four years in prison, and Ligenza was sentenced to three years in prison.

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