A Northeast Philadelphia man who told police he killed his new wife with a crossbow last June because he believed she was Satan pleaded guilty to third-degree murder Wednesday and was sentenced to 20 to 45 years in prison.
But before he was removed from a Common Pleas Court courtroom, Paul Kuzan listened to a half-hour of denunciation from the family of victim Pamela Nightlinger, 42, as well as his two biological children, who described him as an overbearing religious fanatic.
Kuzan appeared stunned when his teenage daughter told Judge Kathryn Streeter Lewis, “I do not want to see him ever again after today . . . I hate him. I hate what he did.”
The judge seemed shocked as well at the raw anger, and interrupted the victim-impact statements several times to speak with Assistant District Attorney Alisa Shver and defense lawyers Mythri Jayaraman and Wendy Ramos.
Judges frequently tell relatives of a victim to describe the impact of the loss, not excoriate the killer. Lewis then asked to read each victim-impact statement before letting the person speak, and only let one of Nightlinger’s two young daughters speak.
Nightlinger’s family was angry and complained bitterly to Shver after the sentencing.
Kuzan, a tall, burly man with a bushy red beard, told the judge he did not wish to make a statement before sentencing.
The plea agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and Kuzan’s lawyers specified the sentence.
Jayaraman, however, interjected that in their meetings since Kuzan’s arrest, “he has expressed tremendous remorse for his actions.”
Jayaraman said that Kuzan was initially found not mentally competent to be tried and that blood tests after his arrest showed no evidence of alcohol or drugs.
“He was having an acute psychotic episode at the time,” Jayaraman added.
Kuzan told Lewis that he has a history of mental illness and is now on a daily regimen of psychotropic medicine.
At Kuzan’s preliminary hearing last year, detectives played part of his recorded confession in which Kuzan said, “I thought she was Satan. I took her life. I guess I am a cold-blooded murderer, but I would not turn my back on the Lord.
“I thought she was the devil. I’m dead serious. When I walked outside, I thought the apocalypse was about to start.”
Kuzan told detectives that he got his crossbow after Nightlinger tried to get him to take a pill.
Kuzan and Nightlinger had married nine days before the June 26, 2016, slaying and, with his two children and her two girls, were living in a house in the 3100 block of Willits Road.
Nightlinger’s older daughter testified that Kuzan became increasingly possessive and isolated Nightlinger from her children, “keeping her in that room.” She said her mother sometimes left the room in tears but was always called back. Some nights, she continued, her mother did not wish them goodnight.
Shver said police went to the house at 9:19 p.m. on June 26 responding to a report that a person had been shot. When police arrived, Shver said, they followed a trail of blood to the next-door neighbor’s house, where they found Nightlinger.
Shver said Nightlinger was sitting on the sofa when Kuzan shot her in the chest with a high-velocity crossbow. The bolt from the weapon went through her and the sofa and stuck in a wall.
Nightlinger walked outside before collapsing.
Nightlinger’s sister, Lisa Bell, read aloud a text message that Nightlinger sent their mother earlier on June 26: “I’ll be disappearing. Take care of my girls for me. Thanks, Mom.”