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Milwaukee man is sentenced to multiple life terms for Wisconsin parade deaths

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now - a Milwaukee man has been sentenced to multiple life terms for killing six people and injuring dozens at a Christmas parade last November. During a hearing on Wednesday, relatives of the convicted man raised concerns about his mental health. The victims' families talked about their loss. Chuck Quirmbach of our member station WUWM was listening.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: Last month, a jury found Darrell Brooks guilty of 76 crimes, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, for driving his SUV into the Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. This week, about 40 victims pointedly described the emotional and physical toll of the deaths and injuries. Brooke Sorenson talked about her grandmother, Virginia Sorenson, who was fatally struck while performing with a dance group.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOKE SORENSON: Granny, I will see you in my dreams, and I know you will be watching over me.

QUIRMBACH: But relatives of Brooks supported the 40-year-old. His grandmother, Mary Edwards, spoke via Zoom from her home in Detroit. Edwards apologized to those harmed by the incident, but she said the bipolar disorder her grandson has had since age 12 caused him to drive through the paradegoers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARY EDWARDS: It is my prayer that he will be treated for this illness and managed in a facility that addresses mental health concerns.

QUIRMBACH: Brooks represented himself during his trial. Yesterday, he said that in treatment he could be properly evaluated and medicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DARRELL BROOKS: If that is an extended period of a long, long time, at least I know that I'm getting what I need.

QUIRMBACH: But Judge Jennifer Dorow said earlier mental health evaluations found Brooks competent. Dorow said the attempt to blame a mental disorder is, quote, "feeble."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JENNIFER DOROW: Which frankly does a disservice to those who truly suffer from mental health issues. I understand why his family might cling to that because of the difficulty in coming to grips with a loved one doing such heinous things.

QUIRMBACH: Dorow sentenced Brooks to six consecutive life terms for the homicide cases and more than 750 additional years in prison for the other charges. She conceded the lengthy sentence is symbolic but says it's needed to hold Brooks accountable.

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Waukesha, Wis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chuck Quirmbach