CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - The family of a slain 86-year-old cannot believe his twice convicted killer won't return to Louisiana's death row.
"A killer, a murderer that murdered countless people, and is proud of it, he gets to live out the rest of his life in prison," said Martin Grau, a grandson of Charles Martin. "I figured they'd give him death, especially with what the guy did."
In 2011, Eric Mickelson was convicted of murder in connection with the home invasion, strangulation and dismemberment of Martin in 2007. The Louisiana Supreme Court threw out his conviction and death sentence last year and ordered that Mickelson be retried.
Just days ago, a jury of 8 women and 4 men again convicted him of first-degree murder then took just 58 minutes during the ensuing penalty phase of his retrial to return the verdict of life in prison.
"Every guard that is going to have to walk him to and from, every single person is in grave danger," Grau said.
Acting Caddo District Attorney Dale Cox used Mickelson's own words against him during closing arguments of the penalty phase of the retrial. "I'm a killer and I love wringing people's necks," the parish's lead prosecutor read from a confession Mickelson signed shortly after his arrest in 2007.
That's exactly how Mickelson admitted killing Martin and, 11 years earlier, Kristy O'Pry, a brutal crime in which he may never face a single criminal charge.
"I really thought this case justified the death penalty and merited the death penalty," Cox said.
"He, you know, cut my grandfather into pieces," Grau said.
On Wednesday, once Mickelson was found guilty, Cox reaffirmed his stance of pursuing a death penalty sentence for the second time. "He cut off his arms, he cut off his legs, and he hid those body parts all throughout the parish."
Cox told jurors during closing arguments of the penalty phase, "Sometimes the truth is so, so, so simple."
Cox concluded, "He's a killer. He's evil."
Then defense attorney Kathryn Sheely told jurors: "You have already punished Mickelson to die at Angola."
She then pleaded to them, "One person can vote to save his life. One of you can kill him."
Sheely's remark led the judge to dismiss jurors from the courtroom. The judge warned Sheely not to call or even imply that jurors would be "killers" if they voted for the death penalty.
After jurors later decided that decided Mickelson should receive a life sentence, his defense attorney was unapologetic about what she had told jurors. "I think in any case it takes one person to save a life," Sheely said.
Lead defense attorney David Price believes the jury was likely more swayed in their decision by the evidence of Mickelson's severe mental illness.
Members of the Martin family now must try to move on with their lives, a sad final chapter in a nightmare that became reality when Mickelson killed then dismembered the World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
"To make us go back through it and then, at the end of it, just one more dagger," Grau said. "We pray for Eric Mickelson's soul."
A soul and a man who will spend his remaining years behind bars in what relative comfort prison affords.