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Blom guilty: Jury deliberates 10 hours

"It's another step to closure. It'll probably never be closed, but it's a giant step," said the victim's father, Steve Poirier.

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Steve, Pam and Patrick Porier exit the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia on Aug. 16, 2000. A crowd of supporters โ€” unable to get into the packed courtroom to hear the jury pronounce Donald Blom guilty of kidnapping and murdering Katie Poirier โ€” greeted them with loud cheers and applause.
Rick Scibelli / Duluth News Tribune

A jury Wednesday found Donald Blom guilty of first-degree murder for kidnapping and killing Katie Poirier -- 448 days after the 19-year-old disappeared from a Moose Lake convenience store.

After five weeks of testimony, about 10 hours of jury deliberations and an emotional verdict, the victim's mother, Pam Poirier, focused on "448 days" โ€” the number of days since she last saw her girl, the number of days it took for justice to be served, and the number of days before she and other members of the family could confront Katie's killer.

"It's another step to closure. It'll probably never be closed, but it's a giant step," said the victim's father, Steve Poirier.

The next step comes this morning, when they get the opportunity to address Blom. The 51-year-old is expected to be sentenced by 6th Judicial District Judge Gary Pagliaccetti to spend the rest of his life in prison.

In open court today in Carlton County, Poirier's mother, father, grandfather and brother said they will speak to the man who at one time said he abducted, strangled and burned the body of Poirier. Blom, who later denied the kidnapping and killing, also will have the opportunity to say something.

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Before hugs and applause came Wednesday outside the St. Louis County District Courthouse for the Poirier family and Carlton County prosecutors Thomas Pertler and Marv Ketola, an anxious crowd with bleary eyes had packed into the No. 1 courtroom.

Quiet sobs were heard and tissues were handed out around the room in which more than 120 Poirier family members, friends, law enforcement, media, attorneys and the defendant came to hear the verdict.

Pam Poirier nervously hung her head and cried next to the bowed head of her son, Patrick.

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Donald Blom's defense team of Joanne Piper-Maurer and Rodney Brodin make their way past the media as they return the St. Louis County Courthouse after juror's had announced they had reached a decision in the Donald Blom murder trial Aug. 16, 2000.
Rick Scibelli / Duluth News Tribune

Except for his own wet eyes, Blom sat expressionless and still next to his attorneys Rodney Brodin and Joanne Piper-Maurer. None of his family was present. No one answered the phone at his Richfield, Minn., home Wednesday night when the News Tribune sought comment.

Just before 4 p.m., Pagliaccetti reminded those in the gallery they were in a court of law and there should be no outbursts "regardless of the verdict." The jury entered in single file.

When the guilty verdict was read aloud by the court clerk, a muffled gasp of approval could be heard. The decibels of relieved sighs rose higher as each juror confirmed their verdict at the request of the defense.

Blom made no movement. But moments later he mimicked a quick grin to Piper-Maurer and shrugged his shoulders.

As the room cleared, Blom was asked by a reporter if he was surprised by the verdict.

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"Well yeah, a little bit," he said as Carlton County deputies shackled him.

Blom said he thought his chances were "50-50."

His attorneys later said they will argue their automatic appeal to the State Supreme Court on a number of grounds, the main being Pagliaccetti's admittance of Blom's recanted confession to investigators in which his attorneys also were present.

The judge's refusal to move the venue from Virginia after he moved it from Carlton because of extensive pretrial media coverage is another issue. So is the testimony of two of Blom's past victims of a 1983 sexual assault and kidnapping.

One of the women came for the verdict Wednesday. She embraced her husband in the stairwell.

"I react the same way I do anytime I don't win a case," Brodin said outside the courthouse. "I'm disappointed, I'm confident Joanne and I did the best job we could. We had a very difficult set of circumstances going in. I think we put on a very vigorous and very good defense. The jury saw it the other way."

Poirier's family members said they are not surprised by the appeal and are not "scared" of it.

And because of the appeals and the possibility of another trial, Poirier's family said they are uncertain when they will finally put to rest the remains the 12-person jury said are indeed hers.

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Brodin, of course, still contends the charred human remains found in Blom's fire pit on his rural Moose Lake property are not Poirier's.

Steve Poirier said he was confident the jury would find Blom guilty despite the fact forensic experts could not conclusively say the remains belong to his daughter. The case is believed to be the first in Minnesota in which a conviction was made under those circumstances.

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The prosecuting attorney's Thomas Pertler, left, and Marv Ketola in the Donald Blom murder trial make their way past applauding friends and family of Katie Poirier on Aug. 16, 200, in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse.
Rick Scibelli / Duluth News Tribune

He said he just knew they would convict Blom after watching Pertler and Ketola lay out their case.

Pertler, the prosecution's lead attorney, thanked the myriad law enforcement agencies who helped stack the "pebbles one at a time until they made a mountain of evidence."

Ketola called it a "tremendous effort" by all agencies, including the Carlton County Sheriff's Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI who devoted "countless hours" to the case.

"Justice has been served," said Poirier's grandfather, Lloyd Simich, who compared the verdict to lifting an anvil off his chest.

"I guess all we can do is thank the smart attorneys, law enforcement, a combination of everything."

Pam Poirier blessed the Iron Range jurors for their hard work and thanked God for giving them the strength to reach their decision.

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"They are not stupid people," Patrick Poirier said. "It was obvious he was going to be guilty. Thank you."

But Patrick Poirier said there's still a battle every day, "just to control our emotions. There's not too many fears anymore."

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