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Man convicted in 2015 rampage sentenced to prison

Michael Kirkland

A man with a lengthy criminal history who was most recently accused of a violent episode at his Ellsworth home was sentenced to prison Tuesday in Pierce County Circuit Court.

Judge Joe Boles sentenced Michael J. Kirkland to four-and a-half years in prison and five years on extended supervision. The 26-year-old pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to two felonies -- false imprisonment and child abuse -- and misdemeanor battery.

Prosecutors alleged that Kirkland flew into a rage Aug. 29, 2015, at his South Piety Street home, where his girlfriend and six children were present. A criminal complaint accused him of beating his girlfriend, grabbing one child by the head and throwing him.

Prosecutors say Kirkland stabbed the girlfriend on the top of her head during the episode, inflicting minor wounds. He then allegedly pulled the woman by her hair into a bathroom, where she was held under threat of death.

She escaped by running out of the house into the street, where she flagged down passers-by for help.

Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich called Kirkland’s actions “absolutely deplorable.”

“How he treated (the victim) is unthinkable,” he said Tuesday.

An emotional Kirkland issued an apology during the sentencing hearing. He said he has since come to grips with mental health issues that contributed to the incident and has made significant strides while in jail.

“I just want to be a great person,” Kirkland said to Boles, accepting the possibility of prison by saying “I’m going to be optimistic about it.”

Kirkland’s girlfriend addressed the court and asked Boles to focus the sentence on treatment for mental health and alcohol addiction. She said Kirkland is the father to one of her children and has become a father figure to her other children.

“He is not like this when he doesn’t drink,” she said.

Boles praised Kirkland for taking responsibility for his actions and described him as a reasonable, intelligent person when he’s “got it together.”

The judge then outlined a criminal history dating back to Kirkland’s youth. Boles said the incidents indicate an escalation of violence he called “a sign of worry.”

“That pattern and history of criminal behavior is troublesome,” Boles said, noting that previous sentences calling for probation didn’t prove effective.

A "witches' brew" of health issues and alcohol tend to be the  common denominator among his criminal offenses, the judge said.

“Those issues can be addressed in prison,” Boles said, later adding, “You’re in charge of where things go from here.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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