St. Paul man denies he killed wife as he's sentenced to life in prison (story about Vincent Bauer)

Date: 1998-02-03

Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities
Author: Paul Gustafson; Staff Writer

For a brief moment Monday before his sentencing, Vincent S. Bauer appeared ready to admit what a Ramsey County jury had concluded: that he murdered his estranged wife, Susan Bauer.

After hearing his mother, Mary Lou Bauer, say she hoped he could one day "admit you did it," Vincent Bauer took the witness stand and told a courtroom audience that included his dead wife's family, "I am sorry I've been a disappointment.

"But, I have to tell you I am innocent of the crime," he quickly added.

"Susan's still here," he said, patting his hand on his heart. "You may not believe it, but she's still here."

A few minutes later, Judge M. Michael Monahan handed down a life sentence to Bauer, who was convicted Saturday of premeditated first-degree murder. Under state sentencing rules, the 35-year-old St. Paul man must serve at least 30 years in prison before he is eligible for release.

Bauer's emphatic denial of guilt was "typical Vinnie, right to his last words," said Ronald Kobilka, Susan Bauer's father. "Basically, he wanted everybody to feel sorry for him right to the last."

Susan Bauer's body was found strangled March 20, 1996, in her home on St. Paul's East Side. Vincent Bauer reported her death to police after finding her body while purportedly dropping off clothing for their children. The couple was going through a divorce and Vincent Bauer was under a court order not to have direct contact with his wife.

At first, police suspected another man. The man had recently broken up with a girlfriend, who was visiting Susan Bauer on March 17. He blamed Susan Bauer for the breakup, and she called police that day after receiving a threatening call from him. She called again when he came to her house and smashed the windows of his girlfriend's car.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Jean Schleh argued in the trial that Vincent Bauer, enraged by his wife's plan to divorce him, hatched a plot to frame the man. Among the evidence presented against Bauer was a blood stain on his underwear that DNA tests showed matched Susan Bauer's blood. Two medical examiners testified that a bruise on Susan Bauer's left leg was caused by the brace Vincent Bauer wore on his right leg.

At the sentencing, Susan Bauer's family told Monahan about the pain that Vincent Bauer has caused them and his three young children, who saw their mother's bruised and bloody body shortly after it was discovered.

Joan Kobilka said her daughter "is my last thought when I go to sleep and my first thought when I wake." She said the murder has had a devastating effect on her grandchildren. Susan Bauer's 3-year-old daughter, Ashley, once told a woman caring for her, "someone is going to hit you until you are dead," her grandmother said.

Mary Lou Bauer told Monahan that her stepson, who contracted polio while an orphan in Vietnam, was a good son who struggled to overcome the stigma of his disability.

But she also said, "I wish he would come to terms with what happened."

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