Judge Wilke got it right

A woman whose plea agreement recommended probation was, instead, sentenced to prison Monday.

The judgment, rendered by the 2nd Judicial District’s chief judge, Kurt Wilke, appears to be the right one.

Holly Ekstrom, along with Ronald Dilley, was originally charged with first-degree murder after Steven Fisher’s body was found in a ditch near Otho in July of last year. Dilley, who accepted a plea deal in April, is serving a 50-year prison sentence for second-degree murder after admitting he hit Fisher four times in the head with a hatchet.

In her deal, Ekstrom pleaded guilty to two aggravated misdemeanors, admitting she was present when Dilley killed Fisher and that she drove Fisher’s pickup truck when his body was left along a roadside.

Because of the condition of his body, immediate identification of Fisher was impossible, and his family had to wait for a determination by the state medical examiner.

Ekstrom also admitted remaining with Dilley until the pair was arrested two days after Fisher’s body was found.

Attorneys for both Ekstrom and the prosecution recommended probation, structured so that Ekstrom “could transfer back into the community.”

Wilke rejected that suggestion.

“Any decent person in your situation, would have immediately … contacted law enforcement authorities to report what had happened, how it happened and where Mr. Fisher’s body was located,” Wilke told Ekstrom.

He called the request for probation “repugnant,” a description that seems especially appropriate since Fisher and Ekstrom were far from strangers.

At the sentencing, Fisher family members recounted the long friendship between the two, related how Steven Fisher had taken care of Ekstrom’s son, even though he was not the child’s father, and read from a card in which Ekstrom said she loved Fisher and told him, “You make life fun.”

The maximum sentence on the aggravated misdemeanors was two years each, so the judge dispensed the longest possible prison sentence he was empowered to impose.

There’s a reason judges are given latitude in accepting or rejecting terms of plea deals. The Messenger believes Judge Wilke made the right call.