FORT WAYNE – Looking across the courtroom at the man who murdered her father, Mary Anne Berron tearfully described the faithful life her father lived.
Our family will never understand what went on in your mind, Berron said to Joseph Kast. Your actions forever changed our family. In order for me to move forward, I have to forgive you, Berron said.
Kast, a 35-year-old Fort Wayne native already serving a 55-year prison sentence for another murder, told Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck he truly (had) compassion for anyone grieving.
But that was about all he said.
In December, an Allen Superior Court jury convicted Kast of murdering Claude Berkshire, an 85-year-old widower who was found dead in his garage on June 24, 2002. Police believe he was getting ready to feed the birds before heading out to morning Mass at a nearby Catholic Church, as was his custom nearly every day.
Friday morning, Surbeck sentenced Kast to 65 years in prison, and ordered that sentence to be served after he finishes the prison sentence he is already serving. Kast’s defense attorneys asked that he be allowed to serve both sentences at the same time.
The investigation to find who killed Berkshire had gone cold until Kast, serving time for the July 3, 2002, murder of Huntington County Building Inspector Earl Bowman, wrote a letter to police asking to talk about the case. He confessed to the crime in a pair of rambling interviews interspersed with details about messages he saw in license plates on passing cars and demon faces he saw in wood-grain flooring.
Kast’s mental health was an issue throughout the case, which inched through the court system over 18 months.
The delays in the case were largely related to issues of Kast’s competency to assist his defense attorneys. Along with verdicts of guilty or not guilty, the jury also had the option to find him guilty but mentally ill, or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Kast pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the charge of murder in the Huntington County case, admitting to stabbing Bowman at a Huntington County job site just days after the Berkshire killing.
Surbeck entered the jury’s verdict of guilty into the record, but found that there was evidence Kast suffers from a significant mental illness.
But he also found that Kast’s extraordinary efforts to cover up his involvement in the crime – little to no physical evidence was found inside Berkshire’s tidy garage – offered contrasting evidence to the mental illness.
Kast said he intends to appeal his conviction.
After the hearing, members of Berkshire’s family hugged one another, as well as a member of Kast’s family.
Berron, wiping tears from her eyes, said they are glad the case has come to an end.
This hasn’t been easy on anybody, she said. Our family wouldn’t wish this on anybody.
Even for him.